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Akio Arakawa


A review of the cumulus parameterization problem is presented with an emphasis on its conceptual aspects covering the history of the underlying ideas, major problems existing at present, and possible directions and approaches for future climate models. Since its introduction in the early 1960s, there have been decades of controversies in posing the cumulus parameterization problem. In this paper, it is suggested that confusion between budget and advection considerations is primarily responsible for the controversies. It is also pointed out that the performance of parameterization schemes can be better understood if one is not bound by their authors' justifications. The current trend in posing cumulus parameterization is away from deterministic diagnostic closures, including instantaneous adjustments, toward prognostic or nondeterministic closures, including relaxed and/or triggered adjustments. A number of questions need to be answered, however, for the merit of this trend to be fully utilized.

Major practical and conceptual problems in the conventional approach of cumulus parameterization, which include artificial separations of processes and scales, are then discussed. It is rather obvious that for future climate models the scope of the problem must be drastically expanded from “cumulus parameterization” to “unified cloud parameterization,” or even to “unified model physics.” This is an extremely challenging task, both intellectually and computationally, and the use of multiple approaches is crucial even for a moderate success. “Cloud-resolving convective parameterization” or “superparameterization” is a promising new approach that can develop into a multiscale modeling framework (MMF). It is emphasized that the use of such a framework can unify our currently diversified modeling efforts and make verification of climate models against observations much more constructive than it is now.

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