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Gang Zhang and Ronald B. Smith

Abstract

Summer precipitation over the Western Ghats and its adjacent Arabian Sea is an important component of the Indian monsoon. To advance understanding of the physical processes controlling this regional precipitation, a series of high-resolution convection-permitting simulations were conducted using the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model. Convection simulated in the WRF Model agrees with TRMM and MODIS satellite estimates. Sensitivity simulations are conducted, by altering topography, latent heating, and sea surface temperature (SST), to quantify the effects of different physical forcing factors. It is helpful to put India’s west coast rainfall systems into three categories with different causes and characteristics. 1) Offshore rainfall is controlled by incoming convective available potential energy (CAPE), the entrainment of midtropospheric dry layer in the monsoon westerlies, and the latent heat flux and SST of the Arabian Sea. It is not triggered by the Western Ghats. When offshore convection is present, it reduces both CAPE and the downwind coastal rainfall. Strong (weak) offshore rainfall is associated with high (low) SSTs in the Arabian Sea, suggested by both observations and sensitivity simulations. 2) Coastal convective rainfall is forced by the coastline roughness, diurnal heating, and the Western Ghats topography. This localized convective rainfall ends abruptly beyond the Western Ghats, producing a rain shadow to the east of the mountains. This deep convection with mixed phase microphysics is the biggest overall rain producer. 3) Orographic stratiform warm rain and drizzle dominate the local precipitation on the crest of the Western Ghats.

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Pengfei Zhang, Gang Chen, and Yi Ming

Abstract

While there is substantial evidence for tropospheric jet shift and Hadley cell expansion in response to greenhouse gas increases, quantitative assessments of individual mechanisms and feedback for atmospheric circulation changes remain lacking. We present a new forcing–feedback analysis on circulation response to increasing CO2 concentration in an aquaplanet atmospheric model. This forcing–feedback framework explicitly identifies a direct zonal wind response by holding the zonal mean zonal wind exerting on the zonal advection of eddies unchanged, in comparison with the additional feedback induced by the direct response in zonal mean zonal wind. It is shown that the zonal advection feedback accounts for nearly half of the changes to the eddy-driven jet shift and Hadley cell expansion, largely contributing to the subtropical precipitation decline, when the CO2 concentration varies over a range of climates. The direct response in temperature displays the well-known tropospheric warming pattern to CO2 increases, but the feedback exhibits negative signals. The direct response in eddies is characterized by a reduction in upward wave propagation and a poleward shift of midlatitude eddy momentum flux (EMF) convergence, likely due to an increase in static stability from moist thermodynamic adjustment. In contrast, the feedback features a dipole pattern in EMF that further shifts and strengthens midlatitude EMF convergence, resulting from the upper-level zonal wind increase seen in the direct response. Interestingly, the direct response produces an increase in eddy kinetic energy (EKE), but the feedback weakens EKE. Thus, the forcing–feedback framework highlights the distinct effect of zonal mean advecting wind from direct thermodynamic effects in atmospheric response to greenhouse gas increases.

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Gang Zhang, Kerry H. Cook, and Edward K. Vizy

Abstract

This study provides an improved understanding of the diurnal cycle of warm season (June–September) rainfall over West Africa, including its underlying physical processes. Rainfall from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission and atmospheric dynamics fields from reanalyses are used to evaluate the 1998–2013 climatology and a case study for 2006.

In both the climatology and the 2006 case study, most regions of West Africa are shown to have a single diurnal peak of rainfall either in the afternoon or at night. Averaging over West Africa produces a diurnal cycle with two peaks, but this type of diurnal cycle is quite atypical on smaller space scales. Rainfall systems are usually generated in the afternoon and propagate westward, lasting into the night. Afternoon rainfall peaks are associated with an unstable lower troposphere. They occur either over topography or in regions undisturbed by nocturnal systems, allowing locally generated instability to dominate. Nocturnal rainfall peaks are associated with the westward propagation of rainfall systems and not generally with local instability. Nocturnal rainfall peaks occur most frequently about 3°–10° of longitude downstream of regions with afternoon rainfall peaks. The diurnal cycle of rainfall is closely associated with the timing of extreme rainfall events.

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Yu Nie, Yang Zhang, Gang Chen, and Xiu-Qun Yang

Abstract

Observations and climate models have shown that the midlatitude eddy-driven jet can exhibit an evident latitudinal shift in response to lower-tropospheric thermal forcing (e.g., the tropical SST warming during El Niño or extratropical SST anomalies associated with the atmosphere–ocean–sea ice coupling). In addition to the direct thermal wind response, the eddy feedbacks—including baroclinic mechanisms, such as lower-level baroclinic eddy generation, and barotropic mechanisms, such as upper-level wave propagation and breaking—can all contribute to the atmospheric circulation response to lower-level thermal forcing, but their individual roles have not been well explained. In this study, using a nonlinear β-plane multilevel quasigeostrophic channel model, the mechanisms through which the lower-level thermal forcing induces the jet shift are investigated. By diagnosing the finite-amplitude wave activity budget, the baroclinic and barotropic eddy feedbacks to the lower-level thermal forcing are delineated. Particularly, by examining the transient circulation response after thermal forcing is switched on, it is shown that the lower-level thermal forcing affects the eddy-driven jet rapidly by modifying the upper-level zonal thermal wind distribution and the associated meridional wave propagation and breaking. The anomalous baroclinic eddy generation, however, acts to enhance the latitudinal shift of the eddy-driven jet only in the later stage of transient response. Furthermore, the barotropic mechanism is explicated by overriding experiments in which the barotropic flow in the vorticity advection is prescribed. Unlike the conventional baroclinic view, the barotropic eddy feedback, particularly the irreversible PV mixing through barotropic vorticity advection and deformation, plays a major role in the atmospheric circulation response to the lower-level thermal forcing.

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Wenxue Tong, Gang Li, Juanzhen Sun, Xiaowen Tang, and Ying Zhang

Abstract

This study examines two strategies for improving the analysis of an hourly update three-dimensional variational data assimilation (3DVAR) system and the subsequent quantitative precipitation forecast (QPF). The first strategy is to assimilate synoptic and radar observations in different steps. This strategy aims to extract both large-scale and convective-scale information from observations typically representing different scales. The second strategy is to add a divergence constraint to the momentum variables in the 3DVAR system. This technique aims at improving the dynamic balance and suppressing noise introduced during the assimilation process. A detailed analysis on how the new techniques impact convective-scale QPF was conducted using a severe storm case over Colorado and Kansas during 8 and 9 August 2008. First, it is demonstrated that, without the new strategies, the QPF initialized with an hourly update analysis performs worse than its 3-hourly counterpart. The implementation of the two-step assimilation and divergence constraint in the hourly update system results in improved QPF throughout most of the 12-h forecast period. The diagnoses of the analysis fields show that the two-step assimilation is able to preserve key convective-scale as well as large-scale structures that are consistent with the development of the real weather system. The divergence constraint is effective in improving the balance between the momentum control variables in the analysis, which leads to less spurious convection and improved QPF scores. The improvements of the new techniques were further verified by eight convective cases in 2014 and shown to be statistically significant.

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Xiaoye Yang, Gang Zeng, Guwei Zhang, and Zhongxian Li

Abstract

The paths of winter cold surge (CS) events in East Asia (EA) from 1979 to 2017 are tracked by the Flexible Particle (FLEXPART) model using ERA-Interim daily datasets, and the probability density distribution of the paths is calculated by the kernel density estimation (KDE) method. The results showed that the paths of CSs are significantly correlated with the intensity of the CSs, which shows an interdecadal transition from weak to strong around 1995. CS paths can be classified into two types, namely, the western path type and the northern path type, which were more likely to occur before and after 1995, respectively. Before 1995, the cold air mainly originated from Europe and moved from west to east, and the synoptic features were associated with the zonal wave train. After 1995, cold air accumulated over western Siberia and then invaded EA along the northern path, and the synoptic features were mainly associated with the blocking structure. The geopotential height (GPH) anomalies over the Arctic were abnormally strong. This paper further analyzes the relationship between CSs and winter sea ice concentration (SIC) in the Arctic. The results show that the intensity of CSs is negatively correlated with the Barents SIC (BSIC). When the BSIC declines, the upward wave flux over the Barents Sea is enhanced and expanded to the midlatitude region. GPH anomalies over the Arctic are positive and form a negative AO-like pattern, which is conducive to the formation of the northern path CS. Furthermore, the observed results are supported by numerical experiments with the NCAR Community Atmosphere Model, version 5.3 (CAM5.3).

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Gang Zhang, Kerry H. Cook, and Edward K. Vizy

Abstract

Convection-permitting simulations at 3-km resolution using a regional climate model are analyzed to improve the understanding of the diurnal cycle of rainfall over West Africa and its underlying physical processes. The warm season of 2006 is used for the model simulations. The model produces an accurate representation of the observed seasonal mean rainfall and lower-troposphere circulation and captures the observed westward propagation of rainfall systems. Most of West Africa has a single diurnal peak of rainfall in the simulations, either in the afternoon or at night, in agreement with observations. However, the number of simulated rainfall systems is greater than observed in association with an overestimation of the initiation of afternoon rainfall over topography. The longevity of the simulated propagating systems is about 30% shorter than is observed, and their propagation speed is nearly 20% faster. The model captures the observed afternoon rainfall peaks associated with elevated topography (e.g., the Jos Plateau). Nocturnal rainfall peaks downstream of the topographic afternoon rainfall are also well simulated. However, these nocturnal rainfall peaks are too widespread, and the model fails to reproduce the observed afternoon rainfall peaks over regions removed from topographic influence. This deficiency is related to a planetary boundary layer that is deeper than observed, elevating unstable profiles and inhibiting afternoon convection. This study concludes that increasing model resolution to convection-permitting space scales significantly improves the diurnal cycle of rainfall compared with the models that parameterize convection, but this is not sufficient to fully resolve the issue, perhaps because other parameterizations remain.

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Pengfei Zhang, Gang Chen, Weiming Ma, Yi Ming, and Zheng Wu

Abstract

Atmospheric rivers (ARs), narrow intense moisture transport, account for much of the poleward moisture transport in midlatitudes. While studies have characterized AR features and the associated hydrological impacts in a warming climate in observations and comprehensive climate models, the fundamental dynamics for changes in AR statistics (e.g., frequency, length, width) are not well understood. Here we investigate AR response to global warming with a combination of idealized and comprehensive climate models. To that end, we developed an idealized atmospheric GCM with Earth-like global circulation and hydrological cycle, in which water vapor and clouds are modeled as passive tracers with simple cloud microphysics and precipitation processes. Despite the simplicity of the model physics, it reasonably reproduces observed dynamical structures for individual ARs, statistical characteristics of ARs, and spatial distributions of AR climatology. Under climate warming, the idealized model produces robust AR changes similar to CESM large ensemble simulations under RCP8.5, including AR size expansion, intensified landfall moisture transport, and an increased AR frequency, corroborating previously reported AR changes under global warming by climate models. In addition, the latitude of AR frequency maximum shifts poleward with climate warming. Further analysis suggests that the thermodynamic effect (i.e., an increase in water vapor) dominates the AR statistics and frequency changes while both the dynamic and thermodynamic effects contribute to the AR poleward shift. These results demonstrate that AR changes in a warming climate can be understood as passive water vapor and cloud tracers regulated by large-scale atmospheric circulation, whereas convection and latent heat feedback are of secondary importance.

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Shuqin Zhang, Gang Fu, Chungu Lu, and Jingwu Liu

Abstract

Explosive cyclones (ECs) over the northern Pacific Ocean during the cold season (October–April) over a 15-yr (2000–15) period are analyzed by using the Final (FNL) Analysis data provided by the National Centers for Environmental Prediction. These ECs are stratified into four categories according to their intensity: weak, moderate, strong, and super ECs. In addition, according to the spatial distribution of their maximum-deepening-rate positions, ECs are further classified into five regions: the Japan–Okhotsk Sea (JOS), the northwestern Pacific (NWP), the west-central Pacific (WCP), the east-central Pacific (ECP), and the northeastern Pacific (NEP). The occurrence frequency of ECs shows evident seasonal variations for the various regions over the northern Pacific. NWP ECs frequently occur in winter and early spring, WCP and ECP ECs frequently occur in winter, and JOS and NEP ECs mainly occur in autumn and early spring. The occurrence frequency, averaged maximum deepening rate, and developing and explosive-developing lifetimes of ECs decrease eastward over the northern Pacific, excluding JOS ECs, consistent with the climatological intensity distributions of the upper-level jet stream, midlevel positive vorticity, and low-level baroclinicity. On the seasonal scale, the occurrence frequency and spatial distribution of ECs are highly correlated with the intensity and position of the upper-level jet stream, respectively, and also with those of midlevel positive vorticity and low-level baroclinicity. Over the northwestern Pacific, the warm ocean surface also contributes to the rapid development of ECs. The composite analysis indicates that the large-scale atmospheric environment for NWP and NEP ECs shows significant differences from that for the 15-yr cold-season average. The southwesterly anomalies of the upper-level jet stream and positive anomalies of midlevel vorticity favor the prevalence of NWP and NEP ECs.

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Long Wen, Kun Zhao, Guifu Zhang, Su Liu, and Gang Chen

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Instrumentation limitations on measured raindrop size distributions (DSDs) and their derived relations and physical parameters are studied through a comparison of the DSD measurements during mei-yu season in east China by four collocated instruments, that is, a two-dimensional video disdrometer (2DVD), a vertically pointing Micro Rain Radar (MRR), and two laser-optical OTT Particle Size Velocity (PARSIVEL) disdrometers (first generation: OTT-1; second generation: OTT-2). Among the four instruments, the 2DVD provides the most accurate DSD and drop velocity measurements, so its measured rainfall amount has the best agreement with the reference rain gauge. Other instruments tend to miss more small drops (D < 1 mm), leading to inaccurate DSDs and a lower rainfall amount. The low rainfall estimation becomes significant during heavy rainfall. The impacts of instrument limitations on the microphysical processes (e.g., evaporation and accretion rates) and convective storm morphology are evaluated. This is important especially for mei-yu precipitation, which is dominated by a high concentration of small drops. Hence, the instrument limitations need to be taken into account in both QPE and microphysics parameterization.

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