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Anji Seth and Filippo Giorgi

Abstract

Recent results show disagreement between global and limited-area models as to the role of soil moisture feedback during the summer of 1993 in the central United States. July precipitation totals increase by 50% in the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts global model when soil moisture is initialized “wet,” but two separate regional modeling groups [University of Utah Limited Area Model group and National Center for Atmospheric Research Regional Climate Model (RegCM) group] have found very different responses to soil moisture, indicating that drier soil moisture conditions might actually lead to increased precipitation via an increase in convective instability and an enhancement of the low-level jet from the Gulf of Mexico.

To further evaluate the sensitivity results of RegCM in this context, a new suite of simulations, driven by analyses of observations for May–July of 1988 and 1993 is performed. The model domain is larger than in the previous experiments and the sensitivity of predicted seasonal rainfall to “wet” and “dry” initial soil moisture is analyzed. In comparing the new simulations with the earlier results, it is found that the simulation of seasonal precipitation as well as its sensitivity to initial soil moisture are affected by domain size and location of the lateral boundaries in both the 1988 and 1993 experiments. The smaller domain captures observed precipitation better in the upper Mississippi basin; however, the sensitivity of precipitation to initial soil moisture appears to be more realistic in the larger domain. While the lateral boundary forcing in the small domain experiments constrains the model to a better overall simulation, it also yields an unrealistic response to internal forcings, which are not consistent with the applied large-scale forcing. These results demonstrate that the domain of a regional climate model must be carefully selected for its specific application. In particular, domains much larger than the area of interest appear to be needed for studies of sensitivity to internal forcings.

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Anji Seth and Maisa Rojas

Abstract

A regional climate model driven by reanalyzed atmospheric forcing is used to investigate 1) the large-scale circulation anomalies that were driven by sea surface temperatures (SSTs), which resulted in extreme rainfall anomalies during January–May 1983 (dry) and 1985 (wet) in tropical South America; 2) the effects of vegetation and soil moisture in the interior Amazon basin on regional circulations, moisture transport, and rainfall; and 3) the sensitivity of regional model results to domain size. Seasonal integrations demonstrated that by prescribing observed SSTs and applying reanalyses-derived forcing along the boundaries of the control domain, the regional climate model (RegCM) was able to simulate the dramatically different large-scale circulations in the two years, as well as the resulting rainfall differences. Thus, the large-scale forcing apparently has a first-order effect on the region. The regional model shows reduced rainfall in the western Amazon compared with observed estimates that are associated with weak low-level moisture transport from the Atlantic. The sensitivity experiments to surface forcing in the Amazon, employing a large (10.8 × 107 km2) and a small (5.7 × 107 km2) domain, show that both simulation and sensitivity are a function of domain size in the Tropics. However, the spatial scales and hence the domains required are larger in the Tropics than in the midlatitudes. The perturbations employed in this study influence the large-scale tropical circulation. This feedback is damped by the lateral boundary conditions of the control (smaller) domain.

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Maisa Rojas and Anji Seth

Abstract

A regional climate model driven at the lateral boundaries by ensemble integrations of a general circulation model (GCM) is used to investigate 1) the large-scale circulation anomalies associated with tropical sea surface temperatures (SSTs) that lead to extreme rainfall anomalies during January–May of 1983 (dry) and 1985 (wet) in tropical South America, and 2) the sensitivity of the nested model results to the choice of domain. The nested model is composed of the Regional Climate Model (RegCM) and the Community Climate Model version 3 (CCM3), both developed at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

In of this study, the RegCM's ability to simulate circulation and rainfall observed in the two extreme seasons was demonstrated when driven at the lateral boundaries by reanalyzed forcing. Seasonal integrations with the RegCM driven by GCM ensemble–derived lateral boundary forcing demonstrate that the nested model responds well to the SST forcing, by capturing the major features of the circulation and rainfall differences between the two years. The GCM-driven model also improves upon the monthly evolution of rainfall compared with that from the GCM. However, the nested model rainfall simulations for the two seasons are degraded compared with those from the reanalyses-driven RegCM integrations. The poor location of the Atlantic intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) in the GCM leads to excess rainfall in Nordeste in the nested model.

An expanded domain was tested, wherein the RegCM was permitted more internal freedom to respond to SST and regional orographic forcing. Results show that the RegCM is able to improve the location of the ITCZ, and the seasonal evolution of rainfall in Nordeste, the Amazon region, and the southeastern region of Brazil. However, it remains that the limiting factor in the skill of the nested modeling system is the quality of the lateral boundary forcing provided by the global model.

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Jeanne M. Thibeault and Anji Seth

Abstract

Future projections of northeastern North American warm-season precipitation [June–August (JJA)] indicate substantial uncertainty. Atmospheric processes important to the northeast-region JJA precipitation are identified and a first evaluation of the ability of five phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) models to simulate these processes is performed. In this case study, the authors develop a set of process-based analyses forming a framework for evaluating model credibility in the northeast region. This framework includes evaluation of models’ ability to simulate observed spatial patterns and amounts of mean precipitation; dynamical atmospheric circulation features, moisture transport, and moisture divergence important to interannual precipitation variability; long-term trends; and SST patterns important to northeast-region summer precipitation.Wet summers in the northeast region are associated with 1) negative 500-hPa geopotential height anomalies centered near the Great Lakes; 2) positive 500-hPa geopotential height anomalies over the western Atlantic east of the Mid-Atlantic states; 3) northeastward moisture flow and increased moisture convergence along the Eastern Seaboard; 4) increased moisture divergence off the U.S. Southeast coast; and 5) positive sea level pressure (SLP) anomalies in the western Atlantic, possibly related to cold tropical Atlantic SSTs and southwest ridging of the North Atlantic anticyclone. Models are generally able to simulate these features but vary compared to observations. Models capture regional moisture transport and convergence anomalies associated with wet summers reasonably well, despite errors in simulating the climatology. Identifying sources of intermodel differences in future projections is important, determining processes relevant for model credibility. In particular, changes in moisture divergence control the sign of northeast-region summer precipitation changes, making it a critical component of process-level analyses for the region.

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Jian-Hua Qian, Anji Seth, and Stephen Zebiak

Abstract

The methodology for dynamical climate downscaling is studied using the second-generation regional climate model (RegCM2). The question addressed is, in order to simulate high-resolution details as accurately as possible, what strategy should be taken: continuous long-term integration in climate prediction mode or consecutive short-term integrations in weather forcasting mode? To investigate this problem, the model was run for 5 months in three different ways: 1) a 5-month continuous simulation, 2) monthly reinitialized simulations, and 3) 10-day reinitialized simulations. Compared to the observed precipitation, the 10-day reinitialized simulation results in the smallest error, while the continuous run shows larger error. Analysis shows that the long-term continuous simulation is contaminated by the systematic errors associated with the steep Andes Mountains and the uncertainties in the moisture processes in the planetary boundary layer near the coast. The method of 10-day reinitialization effectively mitigates the problem of systematic errors and makes a difference in the subtle precipitation processes in the regional climate model, therefore improving the accuracy in dynamic downscaling.

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Willem A. Landman, Anji Seth, and Suzana J. Camargo

Abstract

A regional climate model is tested for several domain configurations over the southwestern Indian Ocean to examine the ability of the model to reproduce observed cyclones and their landfalling tracks. The interaction between large-scale and local terrain forcing of tropical storms approaching and transiting the island landmass of Madagascar makes the southwestern Indian Ocean a unique and interesting study area. In addition, tropical cyclones across the southern Indian Ocean are likely to be significantly affected by the large-scale zonal flow. Therefore, the effects of model domain size and the positioning of its lateral boundaries on the simulation of tropical cyclone–like vortices and their tracks on a seasonal time scale are investigated. Four tropical cyclones, which occurred over the southwestern Indian Ocean in January of the years 1995–97, are studied, and four domains are tested. The regional climate model is driven by atmospheric lateral boundary conditions that are derived from large-scale meteorological analyses. The use of analyzed boundary forcing enables comparison with observed cyclones in these tests. Simulations are performed using a 60-km horizontal resolution and for an extended time integration of about 6 weeks. Results show that the positioning of the eastern boundary of the regional model domain is of major importance in the life cycle of simulated tropical cyclone–like vortices: a vortex entering through the eastern boundary of the regional model is generally well simulated. The size of the domain also has a bearing on the ability of the regional model to simulate vortices in the Mozambique Channel, and the island landmass of Madagascar additionally influences storm tracks. These results show that the regional model can produce cyclonelike vortices and their tracks (with some deficiencies) given analyzed lateral boundary forcing. Statistical analyses of GCM-driven nested model ensemble integrations are now required to further address predictive skill of cyclones in the southwestern Indian Ocean and to test if the model can realistically simulate tropical storm genesis as opposed to advecting existing tropical disturbances entering through the model boundaries.

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Melissa S. Bukovsky, Rachel R. McCrary, Anji Seth, and Linda O. Mearns

Abstract

Global and regional climate model ensembles project that the annual cycle of rainfall over the southern Great Plains (SGP) will amplify by midcentury. Models indicate that warm-season precipitation will increase during the early spring wet season but shift north earlier in the season, intensifying late summer drying. Regional climate models (RCMs) project larger precipitation changes than their global climate model (GCM) counterparts. This is particularly true during the dry season. The credibility of the RCM projections is established by exploring the larger-scale dynamical and local land–atmosphere feedback processes that drive future changes in the simulations, that is, the responsible mechanisms or processes. In this case, it is found that out of 12 RCM simulations produced for the North American Regional Climate Change Assessment Program (NARCCAP), the majority are mechanistically credible and consistent in the mean changes they are producing in the SGP. Both larger-scale dynamical processes and local land–atmosphere feedbacks drive an earlier end to the spring wet period and deepening of the summer dry season in the SGP. The midlatitude upper-level jet shifts northward, the monsoon anticyclone expands, and the Great Plains low-level jet increases in strength, all supporting a poleward shift in precipitation in the future. This dynamically forced shift causes land–atmosphere coupling to strengthen earlier in the summer, which in turn leads to earlier evaporation of soil moisture in the summer, resulting in extreme drying later in the summer.

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Sara A. Rauscher, Anji Seth, Brant Liebmann, Jian-Hua Qian, and Suzana J. Camargo

Abstract

The potential of an experimental nested prediction system to improve the simulation of subseasonal rainfall statistics including daily precipitation intensity, rainy season onset and withdrawal, and the frequency and duration of dry spells is evaluated by examining a four-member ensemble of regional climate model simulations performed for the period 1982–2002 over South America. The study employs the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) regional climate model, version 3 (RegCM3), driven with the NCEP–NCAR reanalysis and the European Centre–Hamburg GCM, version 4.5. Statistics were examined for five regions: the northern Amazon, southern Amazon, the monsoon region, Northeast Brazil, and southeastern South America. RegCM3 and the GCM are able to replicate the distribution of daily rainfall intensity in most regions. The analysis of the rainy season timing shows the observed onset occurring first over the monsoon region and then spreading northward into the southern Amazon, in contrast to some previous studies. Correlations between the onset and withdrawal date and SSTs reveal a strong relationship between the withdrawal date in the monsoon region and SSTs in the equatorial Pacific, with above-average SSTs associated with late withdrawal. Over Northeast Brazil, the regional model errors are smaller than those shown by the GCM, and the strong interannual variability in the timing of the rainy season is better simulated by RegCM3. However, the regional model displays an early bias in onset and withdrawal over the southern Amazon and the monsoon regions. Both RegCM3 and the GCM tend to underestimate (overestimate) the frequency of shorter (longer) dry spells, although the differences in dry spell frequency during warm and cold ENSO events are well simulated. The results presented here show that there is potential for added value from the regional model in simulating subseasonal statistics; however, improvements in the physical parameterizations are needed for this tropical region.

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Anji Seth, Sara A. Rauscher, Michela Biasutti, Alessandra Giannini, Suzana J. Camargo, and Maisa Rojas

Abstract

Analyses of phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) experiments show that the global monsoon is expected to increase in area, precipitation, and intensity as the climate system responds to anthropogenic forcing. Concurrently, detailed analyses for several individual monsoons indicate a redistribution of rainfall from early to late in the rainy season. This analysis examines CMIP5 projected changes in the annual cycle of precipitation in monsoon regions, using a moist static energy framework to evaluate competing mechanisms identified to be important in precipitation changes over land. In the presence of sufficient surface moisture, the local response to the increase in downwelling energy is characterized by increased evaporation, increased low-level moist static energy, and decreased stability with consequent increases in precipitation. A remote mechanism begins with warmer oceans and operates on land regions via a warmer tropical troposphere, increased stability, and decreased precipitation. The remote mechanism controls the projected changes during winter, and the local mechanism controls the switch to increased precipitation during summer in most monsoon regions. During the early summer transition, regions where boundary layer moisture availability is reduced owing to decreases in evaporation and moisture convergence experience an enhanced convective barrier. Regions characterized by adequate evaporation and moisture convergence do not experience reductions in early summer precipitation.

This enhanced convective barrier leads to a redistribution of rainfall from early to late summer, and is robust in the American and African monsoons but muddled in Asia. As described here, viewing monsoons from their inherent ties to the annual cycle could help to fingerprint changes as they evolve.

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Gerald A. Meehl, Julie M. Arblaster, David M. Lawrence, Anji Seth, Edwin K. Schneider, Ben P. Kirtman, and Dughong Min

Abstract

Simulations of regional monsoon regimes, including the Indian, Australian, West African, South American, and North American monsoons, are described for the T85 version of the Community Climate System Model version 3 (CCSM3) and compared to observations and Atmospheric Model Intercomparison Project (AMIP)-type SST-forced simulations with the Community Atmospheric Model version 3 (CAM3) at T42 and T85. There are notable improvements in the regional aspects of the precipitation simulations in going to the higher-resolution T85 compared to T42 where topography is important (e.g., Ethiopian Highlands, South American Andes, and Tibetan Plateau). For the T85 coupled version of CCSM3, systematic SST errors are associated with regional precipitation errors in the monsoon regimes of South America and West Africa, though some aspects of the monsoon simulations, particularly in Asia, improve in the coupled model compared to the SST-forced simulations. There is very little realistic intraseasonal monsoon variability in the CCSM3 consistent with earlier versions of the model. Teleconnections to the tropical Pacific are well simulated for the South Asian monsoon.

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