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Timothy Hall and James F. Booth

Abstract

The authors develop, evaluate, and apply SynthETC, a statistical–stochastic model of winter extratropical cyclones (ETCs) over eastern North America. SynthETC simulates the life cycle of ETCs from formation to termination, and it can be used to estimate the probability of extreme ETC events beyond the historical record. Two modes of climate variability are used as independent covariates: El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Niño-3.4 index and the monthly North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). SynthETC is used to estimate the annual occurrence rate over sites in eastern North America of intense ETC passage in different ENSO and NAO states. Positive NAO is associated with increased rates over the North Atlantic, while negative NAO is associated with decreased rates over the North Atlantic and increased rates over northern Quebec. Positive ENSO is associated with decreased rates over the North Atlantic, Ontario, and the Canadian maritime, while negative ENSO is associated with increased rates over those regions, as well as the Great Lakes region.

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Catherine M. Naud, James F. Booth, and Anthony D. Del Genio

Abstract

Using NASA Aqua MODIS and AIRS data, the relationship between low-level cloud cover (cloud top below the 700-hPa level) and boundary layer stability is explored in post-cold-frontal conditions. A linear relationship is found between seasonal cloud cover and two separate measures of inversion strength, the lower-tropospheric stability (LTS) and the estimated inversion strength (EIS), for two specific regions in the North Atlantic and Pacific in quiescent and weakly subsiding conditions. The relationship barely changes when considering dynamically active and subsiding post-cold-frontal conditions for the same regions. To explore the generality of this result and increase sample size, cold-front-centered composites of cloud cover and stability are constructed. The Northern and Southern Hemisphere seasonal cloud cover and stability distributions in the post-cold-frontal regions are then compared. A fairly good correlation between cloud cover and EIS is found in both hemispheres across all seasons, suggesting that a linear relationship between cloud cover and inversion strength proposed for quiescent conditions exists also in more dynamically active subsiding post-cold-frontal conditions. However, for a given season and hemisphere, the correlation between cloud cover and EIS degrades in post-cold-frontal regions, especially in the Northern Hemisphere. At these scales, other large-scale factors tend to correlate better with cloud cover.

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Catherine M. Naud, James F. Booth, and Anthony D. Del Genio

Abstract

The Southern Ocean cloud cover modeled by the Interim ECMWF Re-Analysis (ERA-Interim) and Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications (MERRA) reanalyses are compared against Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and Multiangle Imaging Spectroradiometer (MISR) observations. ERA-Interim monthly mean cloud amounts match the observations within 5%, while MERRA significantly underestimates the cloud amount. For a compositing analysis of clouds in warm season extratropical cyclones, both reanalyses show a low bias in cloud cover. They display a larger bias to the west of the cyclones in the region of subsidence behind the cold fronts. This low bias is larger for MERRA than for ERA-Interim. Both MODIS and MISR retrievals indicate that the clouds in this sector are at a low altitude, often composed of liquid, and of a broken nature. The combined CloudSatCloud–Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations (CALIPSO) cloud profiles confirm these passive observations, but they also reveal that low-level clouds in other parts of the cyclones are also not properly represented in the reanalyses. The two reanalyses are in fairly good agreement for the dynamic and thermodynamic characteristics of the cyclones, suggesting that the cloud, convection, or boundary layer schemes are the problem instead. An examination of the lower-tropospheric stability distribution in the cyclones from both reanalyses suggests that the parameterization of shallow cumulus clouds may contribute in a large part to the problem. However, the differences in the cloud schemes and in particular in the precipitation processes, which may also contribute, cannot be excluded.

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James F. Booth, Catherine M. Naud, and Anthony D. Del Genio

Abstract

This study analyzes characteristics of clouds and vertical motion across extratropical cyclone warm fronts in the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies general circulation model. The validity of the modeled clouds is assessed using a combination of satellite observations from CloudSat, Cloud–Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations (CALIPSO), Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer for Earth Observing System (AMSR-E), and the NASA Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications (MERRA) reanalysis. The analysis focuses on developing cyclones, to test the model's ability to generate their initial structure. To begin, the extratropical cyclones and their warm fronts are objectively identified and cyclone-local fields are mapped into a vertical transect centered on the surface warm front. To further isolate specific physics, the cyclones are separated using conditional subsetting based on additional cyclone-local variables, and the differences between the subset means are analyzed. Conditional subsets are created based on 1) the transect clouds and 2) vertical motion; 3) the strength of the temperature gradient along the warm front, as well as the storm-local 4) wind speed and 5) precipitable water (PW). The analysis shows that the model does not generate enough frontal cloud, especially at low altitude. The subsetting results reveal that, compared to the observations, the model exhibits a decoupling between cloud formation at high and low altitudes across warm fronts and a weak sensitivity to moisture. These issues are caused in part by the parameterized convection and assumptions in the stratiform cloud scheme that are valid in the subtropics. On the other hand, the model generates proper covariability of low-altitude vertical motion and cloud at the warm front and a joint dependence of cloudiness on wind and PW.

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James F. Booth, Catherine M. Naud, and Jeff Willison

Abstract

The representation of extratropical cyclone (ETC) precipitation in general circulation models (GCMs) and the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model is analyzed. This work considers the link between ETC precipitation and dynamical strength and tests if parameterized convection affects this link for ETCs in the North Atlantic basin. Lagrangian cyclone tracks of ETCs in ERA-Interim (ERAI), GISS and GFDL CMIP5 models, and WRF with two horizontal resolutions are utilized in a compositing analysis. The 20-km-resolution WRF Model generates stronger ETCs based on surface wind speed and cyclone precipitation. The GCMs and ERAI generate similar composite means and distributions for cyclone precipitation rates, but GCMs generate weaker cyclone surface winds than ERAI. The amount of cyclone precipitation generated by the convection scheme differs significantly across the datasets, with the GISS model generating the most, followed by ERAI and then the GFDL model. The models and reanalysis generate relatively more parameterized convective precipitation when the total cyclone-averaged precipitation is smaller. This is partially due to the contribution of parameterized convective precipitation occurring more often late in the ETC’s life cycle. For reanalysis and models, precipitation increases with both cyclone moisture and surface wind speed, and this is true if the contribution from the parameterized convection scheme is larger or not. This work shows that these different models generate similar total ETC precipitation despite large differences in the parameterized convection, and these differences do not cause unexpected behavior in ETC precipitation sensitivity to cyclone moisture or surface wind speed.

Open access
Catherine M. Naud, Jeyavinoth Jeyaratnam, James F. Booth, Ming Zhao, and Andrew Gettelman

ABSTRACT

Using a high-spatial- and high-temporal-resolution precipitation dataset, Integrated Multi-satellite Retrievals for GPM (IMERG), extratropical cyclone precipitation is evaluated in two reanalyses and two climate models. Based on cyclone-centered composites, all four models overestimate precipitation in the western subsiding and dry side of the cyclones, and underestimate the precipitation in the eastern ascending and moist side. By decomposing the composites into frequency of occurrence and intensity (mean precipitation rate when precipitating), the analysis reveals a tendency for all four models to overestimate frequency and underestimate intensity, with the former issue dominating in the western half and the latter in the eastern half of the cyclones. Differences in frequency are strongly dependent on cyclone environmental moisture, while the differences in intensity are strongly impacted by the strength of ascent within the cyclone. There are some uncertainties associated with the observations: IMERG might underreport frozen precipitation and possibly exaggerate rates in vigorously ascending regions. Nevertheless, the analysis suggests that all models produce extratropical cyclone precipitation too often and too lightly. These biases have consequences when evaluating the changes in precipitation characteristics with changes in cyclone properties: the models disagree on the magnitude of the change in precipitation intensity with a change in environmental moisture and in precipitation frequency with a change in cyclone strength. This complicates accurate predictions of precipitation changes in a changing climate.

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James F. Booth, Young-Oh Kwon, Stanley Ko, R. Justin Small, and Rym Msadek

Abstract

To improve the understanding of storm tracks and western boundary current (WBC) interactions, surface storm tracks in 12 CMIP5 models are examined against ERA-Interim. All models capture an equatorward displacement toward the WBCs in the locations of the surface storm tracks’ maxima relative to those at 850 hPa. An estimated storm-track metric is developed to analyze the location of the surface storm track. It shows that the equatorward shift is influenced by both the lower-tropospheric instability and the baroclinicity. Basin-scale spatial correlations between models and ERA-Interim for the storm tracks, near-surface stability, SST gradient, and baroclinicity are calculated to test the ability of the GCMs’ match reanalysis. An intermodel comparison of the spatial correlations suggests that differences (relative to ERA-Interim) in the position of the storm track aloft have the strongest influence on differences in the surface storm-track position. However, in the North Atlantic, biases in the surface storm track north of the Gulf Stream are related to biases in the SST. An analysis of the strength of the storm tracks shows that most models generate a weaker storm track at the surface than 850 hPa, consistent with observations, although some outliers are found. A linear relationship exists among the models between storm-track amplitudes at 500 and 850 hPa, but not between 850 hPa and the surface. In total, the work reveals a dual role in forcing the surface storm track from aloft and from the ocean surface in CMIP5 models, with the atmosphere having the larger relative influence.

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James F. Booth, Lu Anne Thompson, Jérôme Patoux, Kathryn A. Kelly, and Suzanne Dickinson

Abstract

Storm-track analysis is applied to the meridional winds at 10 m and 850 hPa for the winters of 1999–2006. The analysis is focused on the North Atlantic and North Pacific Ocean basins and the Southern Ocean spanning the region south of the Indian Ocean. The spatial patterns that emerge from the analysis of the 850-hPa winds are the typical free-tropospheric storm tracks. The spatial patterns that emerge from the analysis of the surface winds differ from the free-tropospheric storm tracks. The spatial differences between the surface and free-tropospheric storm tracks can be explained by the influence of the spatial variability in the instability of the atmospheric boundary layer. Strongly unstable boundary layers allow greater downward mixing of free-tropospheric momentum (momentum mixing), and this may be the cause of the stronger surface storm tracks in regions with greater instability in the time mean. Principal component analysis suggests that the basin-scale variability that is reflected in the storm-track signature is the same for the free-tropospheric and surface winds. Separating the data based on the boundary layer stability shows that the surface storm track has a local maximum in the region of maximum instability, even when there is no local maximum in the free-tropospheric storm track above the region. The spatial patterns of the surface storm tracks suggest a positive feedback for storm development as follows: 1) an existing storm generates strong free-tropospheric wind variability, 2) the momentum mixing of the unstable boundary layers acts to increase the ocean–atmosphere energy fluxes, and 3) the fluxes precondition the lower atmosphere for subsequent storm development.

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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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