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Zhe Feng, Fengfei Song, Koichi Sakaguchi, and L. Ruby Leung

Abstract

A process-oriented approach is developed to evaluate warm-season mesoscale convective system (MCS) precipitation and their favorable large-scale meteorological patterns (FLSMPs) over the United States. This approach features a novel observation-driven MCS-tracking algorithm using infrared brightness temperature and precipitation features at 12-, 25-, and 50-km resolution and metrics to evaluate the model large-scale environment favorable for MCS initiation. The tracking algorithm successfully reproduces the observed MCS statistics from a reference 4-km radar MCS database. To demonstrate the utility of the new methodologies in evaluating MCS in climate simulations with mesoscale resolution, the process-oriented approach is applied to two climate simulations produced by the Variable-Resolution Model for Prediction Across Scales coupled to the Community Atmosphere Model physics, with refined horizontal grid spacing at 50 and 25 km over North America. With the tracking algorithm applied to simulations and observations at equivalent resolutions, the simulated number of MCS and associated precipitation amount, frequency, and intensity are found to be consistently underestimated in the central United States, particularly from May to August. The simulated MCS precipitation shows little diurnal variation and lasts too long, while the MCS precipitation area is too large and its intensity is too weak. The model is able to simulate four types of observed FLSMP associated with frontal systems and low-level jets (LLJ) in spring, but the frequencies are underestimated because of low-level dry bias and weaker LLJ. Precipitation simulated under different FLSMPs peak during the daytime, in contrast to the observed nocturnal peak. Implications of these findings for future model development and diagnostics are discussed.

Open access
Samson M. Hagos, L. Ruby Leung, Oluwayemi A. Garuba, Charlotte Demott, Bryce Harrop, Jian Lu, and Min-Seop Ahn

Abstract

It is well documented that over the tropical oceans, column-integrated precipitable water (pw) and precipitation (P) have a nonlinear relationship. In this study moisture budget analysis is used to examine this P–pw relationship in a normalized precipitable water framework. It is shown that the parameters of the nonlinear relationship depend on the vertical structure of moisture convergence. Specifically, the precipitable water values at which precipitation is balanced independently by evaporation versus by moisture convergence define a critical normalized precipitable water, pwnc. This is a measure of convective inhibition that separates tropical precipitation into two regimes: a local evaporation-controlled regime with widespread drizzle and a precipitable water–controlled regime. Most of the 17 CMIP6 historical simulations examined here have higher pwnc compared to ERA5, and more frequently they operate in the drizzle regime. When compared to observations, they overestimate precipitation over the high-evaporation oceanic regions off the equator, thereby producing a “double ITCZ” feature, while underestimating precipitation over the large tropical landmasses and over the climatologically moist oceanic regions near the equator. The responses to warming under the SSP585 scenario are also examined using the normalized precipitable water framework. It is shown that the critical normalized precipitable water value at which evaporation versus moisture convergence balance precipitation decreases as a result of the competing dynamic and thermodynamic responses to warming, resulting in an increase in drizzle and total precipitation. Statistically significant historical trends corresponding to the thermodynamic and dynamic changes are detected in ERA5 and in low-intensity drizzle precipitation in the PERSIANN precipitation dataset.

Open access
Suzana J. Camargo, Claudia F. Giulivi, Adam H. Sobel, Allison A. Wing, Daehyun Kim, Yumin Moon, Jeffrey D. O. Strong, Anthony D. Del Genio, Maxwell Kelley, Hiroyuki Murakami, Kevin A. Reed, Enrico Scoccimarro, Gabriel A. Vecchi, Michael F. Wehner, Colin Zarzycki, and Ming Zhao

Abstract

Here we explore the relationship between the global climatological characteristics of tropical cyclones (TCs) in climate models and the modeled large-scale environment across a large number of models. We consider the climatology of TCs in 30 climate models with a wide range of horizontal resolutions. We examine if there is a systematic relationship between the climatological diagnostics for the TC activity [number of tropical cyclones (NTC) and accumulated cyclone energy (ACE)] by hemisphere in the models and the environmental fields usually associated with TC activity, when examined across a large number of models. For low-resolution models, there is no association between a conducive environment and TC activity, when integrated over space (tropical hemisphere) and time (all years of the simulation). As the model resolution increases, for a couple of variables, in particular vertical wind shear, there is a statistically significant relationship in between the models’ TC characteristics and the environmental characteristics, but in most cases the relationship is either nonexistent or the opposite of what is expected based on observations. It is important to stress that these results do not imply that there is no relationship between individual models’ environmental fields and their TC activity by basin with respect to intraseasonal or interannual variability or due to climate change. However, it is clear that when examined across many models, the models’ mean state does not have a consistent relationship with the models’ mean TC activity. Therefore, other processes associated with the model physics, dynamical core, and resolution determine the climatological TC activity in climate models.

Free access
Jiabao Wang, Hyemi Kim, Daehyun Kim, Stephanie A. Henderson, Cristiana Stan, and Eric D. Maloney

Abstract

We propose a set of MJO teleconnection diagnostics that enables an objective evaluation of model simulations, a fair model-to-model comparison, and a consistent tracking of model improvement. Various skill metrics are derived from teleconnection diagnostics including five performance-based metrics that characterize the pattern, amplitude, east–west position, persistence, and consistency of MJO teleconnections and additional two process-oriented metrics that are designed to characterize the location and intensity of the anomalous Rossby wave source (RWS). The proposed teleconnection skill metrics are used to compare the characteristics of boreal winter MJO teleconnections (500-hPa geopotential height anomaly) over the Pacific–North America (PNA) region in 29 global climate models (GCMs). The results show that current GCMs generally produce MJO teleconnections that are stronger, more persistent, and extend too far to the east when compared to those observed in reanalysis. In general, models simulate more realistic teleconnection patterns when the MJO is in phases 2–3 or phases 7–8, which are characterized by a dipole convection pattern over the Indian Ocean and western to central Pacific. The higher model skill for phases 2, 7, and 8 may be due to these phases producing more consistent teleconnection patterns between individual MJO events than other phases, although the consistency is lower in most models than observed. Models that simulate realistic RWS patterns better reproduce MJO teleconnection patterns.

Open access
Catherine M. Naud, James F. Booth, Jeyavinoth Jeyaratnam, Leo J. Donner, Charles J. Seman, Ming Zhao, Huan Guo, and Yi Ming

Abstract

The clouds in Southern Hemisphere extratropical cyclones generated by the GFDL climate model are analyzed against MODIS, CloudSat, and CALIPSO cloud and precipitation observations. Two model versions are used: one is a developmental version of “AM4,” a model GFDL that will utilize for CMIP6, and the other is the same model with a different parameterization of moist convection. Both model versions predict a realistic top-of-atmosphere cloud cover in the southern oceans, within 5% of the observations. However, an examination of cloud cover transects in extratropical cyclones reveals a tendency in the models to overestimate high-level clouds (by differing amounts) and underestimate cloud cover at low levels (again by differing amounts), especially in the post–cold frontal (PCF) region, when compared with observations. In focusing only on the models, it is seen that their differences in high and midlevel clouds are consistent with their differences in convective activity and relative humidity (RH), but the same is not true for the PCF region. In this region, RH is higher in the model with less cloud fraction. These seemingly contradictory cloud and RH differences can be explained by differences in the cloud-parameterization tuning parameters that ensure radiative balance. In the PCF region, the model cloud differences are smaller than either of the model biases with respect to observations, suggesting that other physics changes are needed to address the bias. The process-oriented analysis used to assess these model differences will soon be automated and shared.

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Allison A. Wing, Suzana J. Camargo, Adam H. Sobel, Daehyun Kim, Yumin Moon, Hiroyuki Murakami, Kevin A. Reed, Gabriel A. Vecchi, Michael F. Wehner, Colin Zarzycki, and Ming Zhao

Abstract

Tropical cyclone intensification processes are explored in six high-resolution climate models. The analysis framework employs process-oriented diagnostics that focus on how convection, moisture, clouds, and related processes are coupled. These diagnostics include budgets of column moist static energy and the spatial variance of column moist static energy, where the column integral is performed between fixed pressure levels. The latter allows for the quantification of the different feedback processes responsible for the amplification of moist static energy anomalies associated with the organization of convection and cyclone spinup, including surface flux feedbacks and cloud-radiative feedbacks. Tropical cyclones (TCs) are tracked in the climate model simulations and the analysis is applied along the individual tracks and composited over many TCs. Two methods of compositing are employed: a composite over all TC snapshots in a given intensity range, and a composite over all TC snapshots at the same stage in the TC life cycle (same time relative to the time of lifetime maximum intensity for each storm). The radiative feedback contributes to TC development in all models, especially in storms of weaker intensity or earlier stages of development. Notably, the surface flux feedback is stronger in models that simulate more intense TCs. This indicates that the representation of the interaction between spatially varying surface fluxes and the developing TC is responsible for at least part of the intermodel spread in TC simulation.

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Alexis Berg and Justin Sheffield

Abstract

Evapotranspiration (ET) is a key process affecting terrestrial hydroclimate, as it modulates the land surface carbon, energy, and water budgets. Evapotranspiration mainly consists of the sum of three components: plant transpiration, soil evaporation, and canopy interception. Here we investigate how the partitioning of ET into these three main components is represented in CMIP5 model simulations of present and future climate. A large spread exists between models in the simulated mean present-day partitioning; even the ranking of the different components in the global mean differs between models. Differences in the simulation of the vegetation leaf area index appear to be an important cause of this spread. Although ET partitioning is not accurately known globally, existing global estimates suggest that CMIP5 models generally underestimate the relative contribution of transpiration. Differences in ET partitioning lead to differences in climate characteristics over land, such as land–atmosphere fluxes and near-surface air temperature. On the other hand, CMIP5 models simulate robust patterns of future changes in ET partitioning under global warming, notably a marked contrast between decreased transpiration and increased soil evaporation in the tropics, whereas transpiration and evaporation both increase at higher latitudes and both decrease in the dry subtropics. Idealized CMIP5 simulations from a subset of models show that the decrease in transpiration in the tropics largely reflects the stomatal closure effect of increased atmospheric CO2 on plants (despite increased vegetation from CO2 fertilization), whereas changes at higher latitudes are dominated by radiative CO2 effects, with warming and increased precipitation leading to vegetation increase and simultaneous (absolute) increases in all three ET components.

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Douglas E. Miller and Zhuo Wang

Abstract

The representation of ENSO and NAO are examined in the Climate Forecast System, version 2 (CFSv2), reforecasts with a focus on the physical processes related to teleconnections and predictability. CFSv2 predicts ENSO well, but an eastward shift of the tropical Pacific sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies is evident. Although it appears minor on the global scale, the shift in convection and the large-scale wave train affects the model prediction of regional climate. In contrast, NAO is predicted poorly. The anomaly correlation coefficient (ACC) between the model ensemble mean and the observation is 0.27 during 1982–2010, and the ensemble spread is large. The representation of three sources of NAO predictability—SST, the stratospheric polar vortex, and the Arctic sea ice concentration—is investigated. It is found that the link between tropical Pacific SST and NAO is not well represented in CFSv2, and that the tropospheric–stratospheric interactions are too weak, both contributing to the poor prediction of NAO. Additionally, the impact of ENSO and NAO on prediction skill of CFSv2 in boreal winter is analyzed in terms of the spatial ACC of geopotential height. Active ENSO events exhibit larger prediction skill than neutral years, especially during the ENSO+/NAO− and ENSO−/NAO+ winters. Spatial patterns of prediction skill are also examined, and larger skill of geopotential height and 2-m air temperature is found outlined by the nodes of the PNA pattern, consistent with the large signal-to-noise ratios associated with the ENSO teleconnection.

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Alexis Berg and Justin Sheffield

Abstract

Soil moisture–atmosphere coupling is a key process underlying climate variability and change over land. The control of soil moisture (SM) on evapotranspiration (ET) is a necessary condition for soil moisture to feed back onto surface climate. Here we investigate how this control manifests itself across simulations from the CMIP5 ensemble, using correlation analysis focusing on the interannual (summertime) time scale. Analysis of CMIP5 historical simulations indicates significant model diversity in SM–ET coupling in terms of patterns and magnitude. We investigate the relationship of this spread with differences in background simulated climate. Mean precipitation is found to be an important driver of model spread in SM–ET coupling but does not explain all of the differences, presumably because of model differences in the treatment of land hydrology. Compared to observations, some land regions appear consistently biased dry and thus likely overly soil moisture–limited. Because of ET feedbacks on air temperature, differences in SM–ET coupling induce model uncertainties across the CMIP5 ensemble in mean surface temperature and variability. We explore the relationships between model uncertainties in SM–ET coupling and climate projections. In particular over mid-to-high-latitude continental regions of the Northern Hemisphere but also in parts of the tropics, models that are more soil moisture–limited in the present tend to warm more in future projections, because they project less increase in ET and (in midlatitudes) greater increase in incoming solar radiation. Soil moisture–atmosphere processes thus contribute to the relationship observed across models between summertime present-day simulated climate and future warming projections over land.

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Xianan Jiang, Ángel F. Adames, Ming Zhao, Duane Waliser, and Eric Maloney

Abstract

The Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) exhibits pronounced seasonality. While it is largely characterized by equatorially eastward propagation during the boreal winter, MJO convection undergoes marked poleward movement over the Asian monsoon region during summer, producing a significant modulation of monsoon rainfall. In classical MJO theories that seek to interpret the distinct seasonality in MJO propagation features, the role of equatorial wave dynamics has been emphasized for its eastward propagation, whereas coupling between MJO convection and the mean monsoon flow is considered essential for its northward propagation. In this study, a unified physical framework based on the moisture mode theory, is offered to explain the seasonality in MJO propagation. Moistening and drying caused by horizontal advection of the lower-tropospheric mean moisture by MJO winds, which was recently found to be critical for the eastward propagation of the winter MJO, is also shown to play a dominant role in operating the northward propagation of the summer MJO. The seasonal variations in the mean moisture pattern largely shape the distinct MJO propagation in different seasons. The critical role of the seasonally varying climatological distribution of moisture for the MJO propagation is further supported by the close association between model skill in representing the MJO propagation and skill at producing the lower-tropospheric mean moisture pattern. This study thus pinpoints an important direction for climate model development for improved MJO representation during all seasons.

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