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B. F. Ryan
J. J. Katzfey
D. J. Abbs
C. Jakob
U. Lohmann
B. Rockel
L. D. Rotstayn
R. E. Stewart
K. K. Szeto
G. Tselioudis
, and
M. K. Yau


The Global Energy and Water Cycle Experiment has identified the poor representation of clouds in atmospheric general circulation models as one of the major impediments for the use of these models in reliably predicting future climate change. One of the most commonly encountered types of cloud system in midlatitudes is that associated with cyclones. The purpose of this study is to investigate the representation of frontal cloud systems in a hierarchy of models in order to identify their relative weaknesses. The hierarchy of models was classified according to the horizontal resolution: cloud-resolving models (5-km resolution), limited-area models (20-km resolution), coarse-grid single-column models (300 km), and an atmospheric general circulation model (>100 km). The models were evaluated using both in situ and satellite data.

The study shows, as expected, that the higher-resolution models give a more complete description of the front and capture many of the observed nonlinear features of the front. At the low resolution, the simulations are unable to capture the front accurately due to the lack of the nonlinear features seen in the high-resolution simulations. The model intercomparison identified problems in applying single-column models to rapidly advecting baroclinic systems. Mesoscale circulations driven by subgrid-scale dynamical, thermodynamical, and microphysical processes are identified as an important feedback mechanism linking the frontal circulations and the cloud field. Finally it is shown that the same techniques used to validate climatological studies with International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project data are also valid for case studies, thereby providing a methodology to generalize the single case studies to climatological studies.

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