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Jui-Lin F. Li, Martin Köhler, John D. Farrara, and C. R. Mechoso

Abstract

When sea surface temperatures are prescribed at its lower boundary, the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) atmospheric general circulation model (AGCM) produces a realistic simulation of planetary boundary layer (PBL) stratocumulus cloud incidence. Despite this success, net surface solar fluxes are generally overpredicted in comparison to Earth Radiation Budget Experiment (ERBE) derived data in regions characterized by persistent stratocumulus cloud decks. It is suggested that this deficiency is due to the highly simplified formulation of the PBL cloud optical properties. A new formulation of PBL cloud optical properties is developed based on an estimate of the stratocumulus cloud liquid water path. The January and July mean net surface solar fluxes simulated by the revised AGCM are closer to ERBE-derived values in regions where stratocumulus clouds are frequently observed. The area-averaged estimated error reductions range from 24 (Peru region) to 53 W m−2 (South Pacific storm track region). The results emphasize that surface heat fluxes are very sensitive to the radiative properties of stratocumulus clouds and that a realistic simulation of both the geographical distribution of stratocumulus clouds and their optical properties is crucial.

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E. Mohino, B. Rodríguez-Fonseca, C. R. Mechoso, S. Gervois, P. Ruti, and F. Chauvin

Abstract

The current consensus is that drought has developed in the Sahel during the second half of the twentieth century as a result of remote effects of oceanic anomalies amplified by local land–atmosphere interactions. This paper focuses on the impacts of oceanic anomalies upon West African climate and specifically aims to identify those from SST anomalies in the Pacific/Indian Oceans during spring and summer seasons, when they were significant. Idealized sensitivity experiments are performed with four atmospheric general circulation models (AGCMs). The prescribed SST patterns used in the AGCMs are based on the leading mode of covariability between SST anomalies over the Pacific/Indian Oceans and summer rainfall over West Africa. The results show that such oceanic anomalies in the Pacific/Indian Ocean lead to a northward shift of an anomalous dry belt from the Gulf of Guinea to the Sahel as the season advances. In the Sahel, the magnitude of rainfall anomalies is comparable to that obtained by other authors using SST anomalies confined to the proximity of the Atlantic Ocean. The mechanism connecting the Pacific/Indian SST anomalies with West African rainfall has a strong seasonal cycle. In spring (May and June), anomalous subsidence develops over both the Maritime Continent and the equatorial Atlantic in response to the enhanced equatorial heating. Precipitation increases over continental West Africa in association with stronger zonal convergence of moisture. In addition, precipitation decreases over the Gulf of Guinea. During the monsoon peak (July and August), the SST anomalies move westward over the equatorial Pacific and the two regions where subsidence occurred earlier in the seasons merge over West Africa. The monsoon weakens and rainfall decreases over the Sahel, especially in August.

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Yongkang Xue, F. de Sales, W-P. Li, C. R. Mechoso, C. A. Nobre, and H-M. Juang

Abstract

This study explores the role of vegetation biophysical processes (VBPs) in the structure and evolution of the South American monsoon system (SAMS) with an emphasis on the precipitation field. The approach is based on comparing ensemble simulations by the National Centers for Environmental Prediction general circulation model (GCM) in which the land surface parameterization in one ensemble includes an explicit representation of vegetation processes in the calculation of surface fluxes while the other does not [GCM/Simplified Simple Biosphere Model (SSiB) and GCM/Soil, respectively], but with similar monthly mean surface albedo and initial soil moisture. The ensembles consist of five pairs of 1-yr integrations differing in the initial conditions for the atmosphere. The results show that, during the austral summer, consideration of explicit vegetation processes does not alter the monthly mean precipitation at the planetary scale. However, at continental scales, GCM/SSiB produces a more successful simulation of SAMS than GCM/Soil. The improvement is particularly clear in reference to the seasonal southward displacement of precipitation during the onset of the SAMS and its northward merging with the intertropical convergence zone during the monsoon mature stage, as well as better monthly mean austral summer precipitation over the South American continent.

The changes in surface water and energy balances and circulation in October (monsoon onset) and December (the start of the monsoon mature stage) were analyzed for a better understanding of the results and mechanisms involved. It was found that the major difference between the simulations is in the partitioning of latent heat and sensible heat fluxes (i.e., different Bowen ratio), which produced different latitudinal and longitudinal thermal gradients at the surface. A stronger sensible heat flux gradient between continent and ocean in the GCM/SSiB simulation helped generate an enhanced ventilation effect, which lowered moist static energy (MSE) over the northeast coast of South America leading to stronger counterclockwise turning of the low-level wind from the Atlantic Ocean toward the continent during the premonsoon and early monsoon stages, modifying moisture flux convergence (MFC). It was further identified that the seasonality of savanna and shrublands to the south and east of the Amazon rain forest contributed to the variability of heating gradients and influenced the SAMS onset and its northward merge with the ITCZ at the early monsoon mature stage. The comparison of the differences between precipitation, evaporation, advection of MSE, and MFC based on simulations using two different land parameterizations suggested that the VBP modulated the surface water budget, but its impact on precipitation was determined by the changes in circulation via changes in heat gradient and MSE.

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C. R. Mechoso, R. Wood, R. Weller, C. S. Bretherton, A. D. Clarke, H. Coe, C. Fairall, J. T. Farrar, G. Feingold, R. Garreaud, C. Grados, J. McWilliams, S. P. de Szoeke, S. E. Yuter, and P. Zuidema

The present paper describes the Variability of the American Monsoon Systems (VAMOS) Ocean–Cloud–Atmosphere–Land Study (VOCALS), an international research program focused on the improved understanding and modeling of the southeastern Pacific (SEP) climate system on diurnal to interannual time scales. In the framework of the SEP climate, VOCALS has two fundamental objectives: 1) improved simulations by coupled atmosphere–ocean general circulation models (CGCMs), with an emphasis on reducing systematic errors in the region; and 2) improved estimates of the indirect effects of aerosols on low clouds and climate, with an emphasis on the more precise quantification of those effects. VOCALS major scientific activities are outlined, and selected achievements are highlighted. Activities described include monitoring in the region, a large international field campaign (the VOCALS Regional Experiment), and two model assessments. The program has already produced significant advances in the understanding of major issues in the SEP: the coastal circulation and the diurnal cycle, the ocean heat budget, factors controlling precipitation and formation of pockets of open cells in stratocumulus decks, aerosol impacts on clouds, and estimation of the first aerosol indirect effect. The paper concludes with a brief presentation on VOCALS contributions to community capacity building before a summary of scientific findings and remaining questions.

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C. Vera, W. Higgins, J. Amador, T. Ambrizzi, R. Garreaud, D. Gochis, D. Gutzler, D. Lettenmaier, J. Marengo, C. R. Mechoso, J. Nogues-Paegle, P. L. Silva Dias, and C. Zhang

Abstract

An important goal of the Climate Variability and Predictability (CLIVAR) research on the American monsoon systems is to determine the sources and limits of predictability of warm season precipitation, with emphasis on weekly to interannual time scales. This paper reviews recent progress in the understanding of the American monsoon systems and identifies some of the future challenges that remain to improve warm season climate prediction. Much of the recent progress is derived from complementary international programs in North and South America, namely, the North American Monsoon Experiment (NAME) and the Monsoon Experiment South America (MESA), with the following common objectives: 1) to understand the key components of the American monsoon systems and their variability, 2) to determine the role of these systems in the global water cycle, 3) to improve observational datasets, and 4) to improve simulation and monthly-to-seasonal prediction of the monsoons and regional water resources. Among the recent observational advances highlighted in this paper are new insights into moisture transport processes, description of the structure and variability of the South American low-level jet, and resolution of the diurnal cycle of precipitation in the core monsoon regions. NAME and MESA are also driving major efforts in model development and hydrologic applications. Incorporated into the postfield phases of these projects are assessments of atmosphere–land surface interactions and model-based climate predictability experiments. As CLIVAR research on American monsoon systems evolves, a unified view of the climatic processes modulating continental warm season precipitation is beginning to emerge.

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C.R. Mechoso, A.W. Robertson, N. Barth, M.K. Davey, P. Delecluse, P.R. Gent, S. Ineson, B. Kirtman, M. Latif, H. Le Treut, T. Nagai, J.D. Neelin, S.G.H. Philander, J. Polcher, P.S. Schopf, T. Stockdale, M.J. Suarez, L. Terray, O. Thual, and J.J. Tribbia

Abstract

The seasonal cycle over the tropical Pacific simulated by 11 coupled ocean–atmosphere general circulation models (GCMs) is examined. Each model consists of a high-resolution ocean GCM of either the tropical Pacific or near-global means coupled to a moderate- or high-resolution atmospheric GCM, without the use of flux correction. The seasonal behavior of sea surface temperature (SST) and eastern Pacific rainfall is presented for each model.

The results show that current state-of-the-art coupled GCMs share important successes and troublesome systematic errors. All 11 models are able to simulate the mean zonal gradient in SST at the equator over the central Pacific. The simulated equatorial cold tongue generally tends to be too strong, too narrow, and extend too far west. SSTs are generally too warm in a broad region west of Peru and in a band near 10°S. This is accompanied in some models by a double intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) straddling the equator over the eastern Pacific, and in others by an ITCZ that migrates across the equator with the seasons; neither behavior is realistic. There is considerable spread in the simulated seasonal cycles of equatorial SST in the eastern Pacific. Some simulations do capture the annual harmonic quite realistically, although the seasonal cold tongue tends to appear prematurely. Others overestimate the amplitude of the semiannual harmonic. Nonetheless, the results constitute a marked improvement over the simulations of only a few years ago when serious climate drift was still widespread and simulated zonal gradients of SST along the equator were often very weak.

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J. Teixeira, S. Cardoso, M. Bonazzola, J. Cole, A. DelGenio, C. DeMott, C. Franklin, C. Hannay, C. Jakob, Y. Jiao, J. Karlsson, H. Kitagawa, M. Köhler, A. Kuwano-Yoshida, C. LeDrian, J. Li, A. Lock, M. J. Miller, P. Marquet, J. Martins, C. R. Mechoso, E. v. Meijgaard, I. Meinke, P. M. A. Miranda, D. Mironov, R. Neggers, H. L. Pan, D. A. Randall, P. J. Rasch, B. Rockel, W. B. Rossow, B. Ritter, A. P. Siebesma, P. M. M. Soares, F. J. Turk, P. A. Vaillancourt, A. Von Engeln, and M. Zhao

Abstract

A model evaluation approach is proposed in which weather and climate prediction models are analyzed along a Pacific Ocean cross section, from the stratocumulus regions off the coast of California, across the shallow convection dominated trade winds, to the deep convection regions of the ITCZ—the Global Energy and Water Cycle Experiment Cloud System Study/Working Group on Numerical Experimentation (GCSS/WGNE) Pacific Cross-Section Intercomparison (GPCI). The main goal of GPCI is to evaluate and help understand and improve the representation of tropical and subtropical cloud processes in weather and climate prediction models. In this paper, a detailed analysis of cloud regime transitions along the cross section from the subtropics to the tropics for the season June–July–August of 1998 is presented. This GPCI study confirms many of the typical weather and climate prediction model problems in the representation of clouds: underestimation of clouds in the stratocumulus regime by most models with the corresponding consequences in terms of shortwave radiation biases; overestimation of clouds by the 40-yr ECMWF Re-Analysis (ERA-40) in the deep tropics (in particular) with the corresponding impact in the outgoing longwave radiation; large spread between the different models in terms of cloud cover, liquid water path and shortwave radiation; significant differences between the models in terms of vertical cross sections of cloud properties (in particular), vertical velocity, and relative humidity. An alternative analysis of cloud cover mean statistics is proposed where sharp gradients in cloud cover along the GPCI transect are taken into account. This analysis shows that the negative cloud bias of some models and ERA-40 in the stratocumulus regions [as compared to the first International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (ISCCP)] is associated not only with lower values of cloud cover in these regimes, but also with a stratocumulus-to-cumulus transition that occurs too early along the trade wind Lagrangian trajectory. Histograms of cloud cover along the cross section differ significantly between models. Some models exhibit a quasi-bimodal structure with cloud cover being either very large (close to 100%) or very small, while other models show a more continuous transition. The ISCCP observations suggest that reality is in-between these two extreme examples. These different patterns reflect the diverse nature of the cloud, boundary layer, and convection parameterizations in the participating weather and climate prediction models.

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S. Pawson, K. Kodera, K. Hamilton, T. G. Shepherd, S. R. Beagley, B. A. Boville, J. D. Farrara, T. D. A. Fairlie, A. Kitoh, W. A. Lahoz, U. Langematz, E. Manzini, D. H. Rind, A. A. Scaife, K. Shibata, P. Simon, R. Swinbank, L. Takacs, R. J. Wilson, J. A. Al-Saadi, M. Amodei, M. Chiba, L. Coy, J. de Grandpré, R. S. Eckman, M. Fiorino, W. L. Grose, H. Koide, J. N. Koshyk, D. Li, J. Lerner, J. D. Mahlman, N. A. McFarlane, C. R. Mechoso, A. Molod, A. O'Neill, R. B. Pierce, W. J. Randel, R. B. Rood, and F. Wu

To investigate the effects of the middle atmosphere on climate, the World Climate Research Programme is supporting the project “Stratospheric Processes and their Role in Climate” (SPARC). A central theme of SPARC, to examine model simulations of the coupled troposphere–middle atmosphere system, is being performed through the initiative called GRIPS (GCM-Reality Intercomparison Project for SPARC). In this paper, an overview of the objectives of GRIPS is given. Initial activities include an assessment of the performance of middle atmosphere climate models, and preliminary results from this evaluation are presented here. It is shown that although all 13 models evaluated represent most major features of the mean atmospheric state, there are deficiencies in the magnitude and location of the features, which cannot easily be traced to the formulation (resolution or the parameterizations included) of the models. Most models show a cold bias in all locations, apart from the tropical tropopause region where they can be either too warm or too cold. The strengths and locations of the major jets are often misrepresented in the models. Looking at three-dimensional fields reveals, for some models, more severe deficiencies in the magnitude and positioning of the dominant structures (such as the Aleutian high in the stratosphere), although undersampling might explain some of these differences from observations. All the models have shortcomings in their simulations of the present-day climate, which might limit the accuracy of predictions of the climate response to ozone change and other anomalous forcing.

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