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Song Yang and William J. Gutowski Jr.

Abstract

Plumb's formulation of the stationary wave activity flux is used to determine how well versions of the GFDL and NCAR general circulation models simulate the sources, sinks, and horizontal propagation of atmospheric stationary waves, which play an important role in determining regional climate. The wave activity flux provides insight into the simulation of nondynamic as well as dynamic processes in these models. Model performances for current climate simulations are evaluated with respect to NMC analyses averaged over 1978–1990.

The models fare best when the stationary wave forcing is strongest, that is, in the wintertime Northern Hemisphere, where they reproduce the observed three-branch structure of upward wave activity flux. For the Northern Hemisphere summer and the Southern Hemisphere in both summer and winter, the models show less agreement with observations, although they do simulate the generally downward flux observed during Northern Hemisphere summer, which the analysis suggests is caused by convection. C02-doubling changes in the wave activity flux show little consistency between the two models. The analysis suggests that accurate modeling of stationary wave activity flux is strongly dependent on diabatic forcing, especially that occurring in storm tracks. Improving the simulation of stationary wave activity forcing requires a much better understanding of the physics governing storm tracks and latent heat release in the atmosphere, so that improvements in stationary wave simulation in these models will not occur by simply increasing model resolution.

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Richard D. Rosen and William J. Gutowski Jr.

Abstract

The possible impact of doubling C02 on the zonal-mean zonal winds and the angular momentum of the atmosphere is examined using general circulation model output archived by the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory. Whereas the emphasis in most previous studies with these models has been placed on the temperature and precipitation changes expected from a doubled-CO2 scenario, the intent here is to investigate some of the dynamical consequences predicted by them models, especially within the tropics where the zonal-wind and temperature changes are less tightly coupled than elsewhere.

Comparisons among the three models of the difference in zonal-mean zonal winds between 2×C02 and 1×C02 simulations indicate a common tendency when C02 is doubled for winds to become more easterly in much of the tropics during June-July-August. Less of a consensus for the tropics emerges for December-January-February, perhaps as a result of differences among the models' basic climatologies for the zonal-wind field. In general, however, changes predicted for the zonal winds in the tropics and elsewhere are comparable to the interannual variability currently observed, suggesting that these changes ought to become detectable eventually.

Largely because of the tropical wind changes, decreases in the troposphere's relative angular momentum accompany a doubling of C02 in all the model runs. The amplitude of the decrease is typically a considerable fraction of a model's seasonal cycle and, in some cases, is large enough that a measurable change in the length of day could result. Although the possibility of an anthropogenic effect on earth's rotation is noteworthy, such a prediction must be regarded as tentative in light of the shortcomings found in the models’ zonal-wind climatologies and the differences in their zonal-mean responses.

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William J. Gutowski Jr., David S. Gutzler, and Wei-Chyung Wang

Abstract

We examine surface energy balances simulated by three general circulation models for current climatic boundary conditions and for an atmosphere with twice current levels of CO2. Differences between model simulations provide a measure of uncertainty in the prediction of surface temperature in a double-CO2 climate, and diagnosis of the energy balance suggests the radiative and thermodynamic processes responsible for these differences. The scale dependence of the surface energy balance is examined by averaging over a hierarchy of spatial domains ranging from the entire globe to regions encompassing just a few model grid points.

Upward and downward longwave fluxes are the dominant terms in the global-average balance for each model and climate. The models product nearly the same global-average surface temperature in their current climate simulations, so their upward longwave fluxes are nearly the same, but in the global-average balance their downward longwave fluxes, absorbed solar radiation, and sensible and latent heat fluxes have intermodel discrepancies that are larger than respective flux changes associated with doubling CO2. Despite the flux discrepancies, the globally averaged surface flux changes associated with CO2 doubling are qualitatively consistent among the models, suggesting that the basic large-scale mechanisms of greenhouse warming are not very sensitive to the precise surface balance of heat occurring in a model's current climate simulation.

The net longwave flux at the surface has small spatial variability, so global-average discrepancies in surface longwave fluxes are also manifested in the regional-scale balances. For this reason, increasing horizontal resolution will not improve the consistency of regional-scale climate simulations in these models unless discrepancies in global-average longwave radiation are resolved. Differences between models in simulating effects of moisture in the atmosphere and in the ground appear to be an important cause of differences in surface energy budgets on all scales.

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William J. Gutowski Jr., Helin Wei, Charles J. Vörösmarty, and Balázs M. Fekete

Abstract

The Arctic’s land surface has large areas of wetlands that exchange moisture, energy, and momentum with the atmosphere. The authors use a mesoscale, pan-Arctic model simulating the summer of 1986 to examine links between the wetlands and arctic atmospheric dynamics and water cycling. Simulations with and without wetlands are compared to simulations using perturbed initial and lateral boundary conditions to delineate when and where the wetlands influence rises above nonlinear internal variability. The perturbation runs expose the temporal variability of the circulation’s sensitivity to changes in lower boundary conditions. For the wetlands cases examined here, the period of the most significant influence is approximately two weeks, and the wetlands do not introduce new circulation changes but rather appear to reinforce and modify existing circulation responses to perturbations. The largest circulation sensitivity, and thus the largest wetlands influence, occurs in central Siberia. The circulation changes induced by adding the wetlands appear as a propagating, equivalent barotropic wave. The wetlands anomaly circulation spreads alterations of surface fluxes to other locations, which undermines the potential for the wetlands to present a distinctive, spatially fixed forcing to atmospheric circulation. Using the climatology of artic synoptic-storm occurrence to indicate when the arctic circulation is most sensitive to altered forcing, the results suggest that the circulation is susceptible to the direct influence of wetlands for a limited time period extending from spring thaw of wetlands until synoptic-storm occurrence diminishes in midsummer. Sensitivities in arctic circulation uncovered through this work occur during a period of substantial transition from a fundamentally frozen to thawed state, a period of major concern for impacts of greenhouse warming on pan-Arctic climate. Changing arctic climate could alter the behavior revealed here.

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Justin M. Glisan, William J. Gutowski Jr., John J. Cassano, and Matthew E. Higgins

Abstract

Spectral (interior) nudging is a way of constraining a model to be more consistent with observed behavior. However, such control over model behavior raises concerns over how much nudging may affect unforced variability and extremes. Strong nudging may reduce or filter out extreme events since nudging pushes the model toward a relatively smooth, large-scale state. The question then becomes: what is the minimum spectral nudging needed to correct biases while not limiting the simulation of extreme events? To determine this, case studies were performed using a six-member ensemble of the Pan-Arctic Weather Research and Forecasting model (WRF) with varying spectral nudging strength, using WRF’s standard nudging as a reference point. Two periods were simulated, one in a cold season (January 2007) and one in a warm season (July 2007).

Precipitation and 2-m temperature were analyzed to determine how changing spectral nudging strength impacts temperature and precipitation extremes and selected percentiles. Results suggest that there is a marked lack of sensitivity to varying degrees of nudging. Moreover, given that nudging is an artificial forcing applied in the model, an outcome of this work is that nudging strength can be considerably smaller than the WRF standard strength and still produce climate simulations that are much better than using no nudging.

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Helin Wei, William J. Gutowski Jr., Charles J. Vorosmarty, and Balazs M. Fekete

Abstract

A number of polar datasets have recently been released involving in situ measurements, satellite retrievals, and reanalysis output that provide new opportunities to evaluate regional climate in the Arctic. These data have been used to assess a 1-yr pan-Arctic simulation (October 1985–September 1986) performed by a version of the fifth-generation Pennsylvania State University–National Center for Atmospheric Research (PSU–NCAR) Mesoscale Model (MM5) that incorporated the NCAR land surface model (LSM) and a simple thermodynamic sea ice model to investigate interactions between the land surface and atmosphere. The model's standard cloud scheme using relative humidity was replaced by one using simulated cloud liquid water and ice water after a set of short test simulations revealed excessive cloud cover.

Model validation concentrates on factors relevant to the water cycle: atmospheric circulation, temperature, surface radiation fluxes, precipitation, and runoff. The model captures general patterns of atmospheric circulation over land. The rms differences from the Historical Arctic Rawinsonde Archive (HARA) rawinsonde winds at 850 hPa are smaller for the simulation (9.8 m s−1) than for the NCEP–NCAR reanalysis (10.5 m s−1) that supplies the model's boundary conditions. For continental watersheds, the model simulates well annual average surface air temperature (bias <2°C) and precipitation (bias <0.5 mm day−1). However, the model has a summer dry bias with monthly precipitation error occasionally exceeding 1 mm day−1. The model simulates the approximate magnitude of spring runoff surge, but annual runoff is less than observed (18%–48% less among the continental watersheds). Analysis of precipitation and surface air temperature errors indicates that further improvements in both evapotranspiration and precipitation are needed to simulate well the full annual water cycle.

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William J. Gutowski Jr., Steven G. Decker, Rodney A. Donavon, Zaitao Pan, Raymond W. Arritt, and Eugene S. Takle

Abstract

Precipitation intensity spectra for a central U.S. region in a 10-yr regional climate simulation are compared to corresponding observed spectra for precipitation accumulation periods ranging from 6 h to 10 days. Model agreement with observations depends on the length of the precipitation accumulation period, with similar results for both warm and cold halves of the year. For 6- and 12-h accumulation periods, simulated and observed spectra show little overlap. For daily and longer accumulation periods, the spectra are similar for moderate precipitation rates, though the model produces too many low-intensity precipitation events and too few high-intensity precipitation events for all accumulation periods. The spatial correlation of simulated and observed precipitation events indicates that the model's 50-km grid spacing is too coarse to simulate well high-intensity events. Spatial correlations with and without very light precipitation indicate that coarse resolution is not a direct cause of excessive low-intensity events. The model shows less spread than observations in its pattern of spatial correlation versus distance, suggesting that resolved model circulation patterns producing 6-hourly precipitation are limited in the range of precipitation patterns they can produce compared to the real world. The correlations also indicate that replicating observed precipitation intensity distributions for 6-h accumulation periods requires grid spacing smaller than about 15 km, suggesting that models with grid spacing substantially larger than this will be unable to simulate the observed diurnal cycle of precipitation.

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