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Kevin Hamilton, R. John Wilson, and Richard S. Hemler

Abstract

The tropical stratospheric mean flow behavior in a series of integrations with high vertical resolution versions of the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) “SKYHI” model is examined. At sufficiently high vertical and horizontal model resolution, the simulated stratospheric zonal winds exhibit a strong equatorially centered oscillation with downward propagation of the wind reversals and with formation of strong vertical shear layers. This appears to be a spontaneous internally generated oscillation and closely resembles the observed quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO) in many respects, although the simulated oscillation has a period less than half that of the real QBO. The same basic mean flow oscillation appears in both seasonally varying and perpetual equinox versions of the model, and most of the analysis in this paper is focused on the perpetual equinox cases. The mean flow oscillation is shown to be largely driven by eddy momentum fluxes associated with a broad spectrum of vertically propagating waves generated spontaneously in the tropical troposphere of the model. Several experiments are performed with the model parameters perturbed in various ways. The period of the simulated tropical stratospheric mean flow oscillation is found to change in response to large alterations in the sea surface temperatures (SSTs) employed. This is a fairly direct demonstration of the link between the stratospheric mean flow behavior and tropical convection that is inherent in current theories of the QBO. It is also shown in another series of experiments that the oscillation is affected by the coefficients used for the subgrid-scale diffusion parameterization. These experiments demonstrate that at least one key reason why reasonably fine horizontal resolution is needed for the model to simulate a mean flow oscillation is the smaller horizontal diffusion that can be used at high resolution.

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Kevin Hamilton, R. John Wilson, and Richard S. Hemler

Abstract

The large-scale circulation in the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory “SKYHI” troposphere–stratosphere–mesosphere finite-difference general circulation model is examined as a function of vertical and horizontal resolution. The experiments examined include one with horizontal grid spacing of ∼35 km and another with ∼100 km horizontal grid spacing but very high vertical resolution (160 levels between the ground and about 85 km). The simulation of the middle-atmospheric zonal-mean winds and temperatures in the extratropics is found to be very sensitive to horizontal resolution. For example, in the early Southern Hemisphere winter the South Pole near 1 mb in the model is colder than observed, but the bias is reduced with improved horizontal resolution (from ∼70°C in a version with ∼300 km grid spacing to less than 10°C in the ∼35 km version). The extratropical simulation is found to be only slightly affected by enhancements of the vertical resolution. By contrast, the tropical middle-atmospheric simulation is extremely dependent on the vertical resolution employed. With level spacing in the lower stratosphere ∼1.5 km, the lower stratospheric zonal-mean zonal winds in the equatorial region are nearly constant in time. When the vertical resolution is doubled, the simulated stratospheric zonal winds exhibit a strong equatorially centered oscillation with downward propagation of the wind reversals and with formation of strong vertical shear layers. This appears to be a spontaneous internally generated oscillation and closely resembles the observed QBO in many respects, although the simulated oscillation has a period less than half that of the real QBO.

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