Search Results

You are looking at 1 - 10 of 27 items for

  • Author or Editor: Elfatih A. B. Eltahir x
  • All content x
Clear All Modify Search
Catherine A. Nikiel and Elfatih A. B. Eltahir

Abstract

Agricultural development is among the most significant forms of land-use change globally. In central North America it has consisted of cropland expansion in the early 1900s, yield intensification starting in the 1930s, and the development of large irrigated areas beginning in the 1950s. The area of this study encompasses the Midwest and Great Plains of the United States not only because significant agricultural change has occurred here but also because of the significant cooling (warming hole) there in the midcentury. This study investigates the relative contribution of agricultural development and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on the observed patterns of regional changes in summer temperature, precipitation, and evapotranspiration using a long-term twentieth-century reanalysis dataset (CERA-20C) as boundary conditions for simulations with the MIT Regional Climate Model (MRCM). Temperatures in the Great Plains (33°–43°N, 95°–109°W) and the Midwest (38°–48°N, 82°–109°W) would have been significantly higher in the second half of the twentieth century without the influence of agricultural development, largely due to an increase in evaporative cooling. The simulations of precipitation changes reflect a significant influence of global SST teleconnections at decadal time scales. Numerical simulations also demonstrate the competing effects of cropland expansion and yield intensification on shaping the observed pattern of increases in precipitation. Ultimately, a combination of agricultural development and decadal variability of global sea surface temperatures (SST) explains most of the observed variability of summer temperature and precipitation during the twentieth century over central North America.

Full access
Guiling Wang and Elfatih A. B. Eltahir

Abstract

Subgrid variability in rainfall distribution has been widely recognized as an important factor to include in the representation of land surface hydrology within climate models. In this paper, using West Africa as a case study, the impact of the subgrid variability in rainfall interception on the modeling of the biosphere–atmosphere system is investigated. According to the authors’ results, when neglecting the rainfall spatial variability, even if the impact on the total evapotranspiration is negligible, significant errors may result in the representation of surface hydrological processes and surface energy balance. These findings are consistent with the results of previous studies. However, in this paper, this issue is further explored and it is demonstrated that the extent of the resulting errors is not limited to the land surface processes. They extend to the atmosphere via the low-level cloud feedback to impact solar radiation, boundary layer energy, atmospheric circulation, and the distribution of precipitation. The same errors also propagate into the biosphere through vegetation dynamics and can eventually lead to a significantly different biosphere–atmosphere equilibrium state. This study provides a good example for the need to have physical realism in modeling the subgrid variability and most other details of the complex biosphere–atmosphere–ocean system.

Full access
Rebecca L. Gianotti and Elfatih A. B. Eltahir

Abstract

This paper describes a new method for parameterizing convective cloud fraction that can be used within large-scale climate models, and evaluates the new method using the Regional Climate Model, version 3 (RegCM3), coupled to the land surface scheme Integrated Biosphere Simulator (IBIS). The horizontal extent of convective cloud cover is calculated by utilizing a relationship between the simulated amount of convective cloud water and typical observations of convective cloud water density. This formulation not only provides a physically meaningful basis for the simulation of convective cloud cover, but it is also spatially and temporally variable and independent of model resolution, rendering it generally applicable for large-scale climate models. Simulations over the Maritime Continent show that the new method allows for simulation of an essential convective–radiative feedback, which was absent in the existing version of RegCM3–IBIS, such that moist convection not only responds to diurnal variability at the earth’s surface but also impacts the solar radiation received at the surface via cumulus cloud production. The impact on model performance was mixed, but it is considered that appropriate representation of the convective–radiative feedback and improved physical realism resulting from the new cloud fraction parameterization will likely have positive benefits elsewhere. The role of convective rainfall production in the convective–radiative feedback and a new parameterization for convective autoconversion are addressed in Part II of this paper series.

Full access
Xinyu Zheng and Elfatih A. B. Eltahir

Abstract

The focus of this paper is the role of meridional distribution of vegetation in the dynamics of monsoons and rainfall over West Africa. A moist zonally symmetric atmospheric model coupled with a simple land surface scheme is developed to investigate these processes. Four primary experiments have been carried out to examine the sensitivity of West African monsoons to perturbations in the meridional distribution of vegetation. In the control experiment, the authors assume a distribution of vegetation that resembles the natural vegetation cover in West Africa. Each perturbation experiment is identical to the control experiment except that a change in vegetation cover is imposed for a latitudinal belt that is 10° in width. The results of the numerical experiments demonstrate that West African monsoons and therefore rainfall distribution depend critically on the location of the vegetation perturbations. Changes in vegetation cover along the border between the Sahara desert and West Africa (desertification) may have a minor impact on the simulated monsoon circulation. However, coastal deforestation may cause the collapse of the monsoon circulation and have a dramatic impact on the regional rainfall. The observed deforestation in West Africa is then likely to be a significant contributor to the observed drought.

Full access
Rebecca L. Gianotti and Elfatih A. B. Eltahir

Abstract

This paper describes a new method for parameterizing the conversion of convective cloud liquid water to rainfall (“autoconversion”) that can be used within large-scale climate models, and evaluates the new method using the Regional Climate Model, version 3 (RegCM3), coupled to the land surface scheme Integrated Biosphere Simulator (IBIS). The new method is derived from observed distributions of cloud water content and is constrained by observations of cloud droplet characteristics and climatological rainfall intensity. This new method explicitly accounts for subgrid variability with respect to cloud water density and is independent of model resolution, making it generally applicable for large-scale climate models. This work builds on the development of a new parameterization method for convective cloud fraction, which was described in Part I.

Simulations over the Maritime Continent using the Emanuel convection scheme show significant improvement in model performance, not only with respect to convective rainfall but also in shortwave radiation, net radiation, and turbulent surface fluxes of latent and sensible heat, without any additional modifications made to the simulation of those variables. Model improvements are demonstrated over a 19-yr validation period as well as a shorter 4-yr evaluation. Model performance with the Grell convection scheme is not similarly improved and reasons for this outcome are discussed. This work illustrates the importance of representing observed subgrid-scale variability in diurnally varying convective processes for simulations of the Maritime Continent region.

Full access
Guiling Wang and Elfatih A. B. Eltahir

Abstract

The natural variability in the annual flow of the Nile is significantly regulated by the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO). In this paper, several sources of information are combined, including ENSO, rainfall over Ethiopia, and the recent history of river flow in the Nile, in order to obtain accurate forecasts of the Nile flood at Aswan. The Bayesian theorem is used in developing the discriminant forecasting algorithm. Conditional categoric probabilities are used to describe the flood forecasts, and a synoptic index is defined to measure the forecasts’ skill. The results presented show that ENSO information is the only valuable predictor for the long-range forecasts (lead time longer than the hydrological response timescale, which is 2–3 months in this study). However, the incorporation of the rainfall and river flow information in addition to the ENSO information significantly improves the quality of the medium-range forecasts (lead time shorter than the hydrological response timescale).

Full access
Jonathan M. Winter and Elfatih A. B. Eltahir

Abstract

A climate model must include an accurate surface physics scheme in order to examine the interactions between the land and atmosphere. Given an increase in the surface radiative forcing, the sensitivity of latent heat flux to available energy plays an important role in determining the energy budget and has a significant impact on the response of surface temperature.

The Penman–Monteith equation is used to construct a theoretical framework for evaluating the climatology of evapotranspiration and the sensitivity of latent heat flux to available energy. Regional Climate Model version 3 coupled to Integrated Biosphere Simulator (RegCM3–IBIS); RegCM3 with its native land surface model, Biosphere–Atmosphere Transfer Scheme 1e (RegCM3–BATS1e); and Flux Network (FLUXNET) micrometeorological tower observations are compared and contrasted using the developed methodology.

RegCM3–IBIS and RegCM3–BATS1e simulate the observed sensitivity of latent heat flux to available energy reasonably well during the summer on average; however, there are significant variations in the monthly values. Additional information provided by the physically based Penman–Monteith framework is employed for identifying deficiencies and guiding improvements in models, allowing calibration of both the climatology of evapotranspiration and the sensitivity of latent heat flux to available energy.

Full access
Kirsten L. Findell and Elfatih A. B. Eltahir

Abstract

This paper investigates the influence of soil moisture on the development and triggering of convection in different early-morning atmospheric conditions. A one-dimensional model of the atmospheric boundary layer (BL) is initialized with atmospheric sounding data from Illinois and with the soil moisture set to either extremely wet (saturated) or extremely dry (20% of saturation) conditions. Two measures are developed to assess the low-level temperature and humidity structure of the early-morning atmosphere. These two measures are used to distinguish between four types of soundings, based on the likely outcome of the model: 1) those soundings favoring deep convection over dry soils, 2) those favoring deep convection over wet soils, 3) those unlikely to convect over any land surface, and 4) those likely to convect over any land surface. Examples of the first two cases are presented in detail.

The early-morning atmosphere is characterized in this work by the newly developed convective triggering potential (CTP) and a low-level humidity index, HIlow. The CTP measures the departure from a moist adiabatic temperature lapse rate in the region between 100 and 300 mb (about 1–3 km) above the ground surface (AGS). This region is the critical interface between the near-surface region, which is almost always incorporated into the growing BL, and free atmospheric air, which is almost never incorporated into the BL. Together, these two measures form the CTP-HIlow framework for analyzing atmospheric controls on soil moisture–boundary layer interactions.

Results show that in Illinois deep convection is trigged in the model 22% of the time over wet soils and only 13% of the time over dry soils. Additional testing varying the radiative conditions in Illinois and also using the 1D model with soundings from four additional stations confirm that the CTP-HIlow framework is valid for regions far removed from Illinois.

Full access
Marc P. Marcella and Elfatih A. B. Eltahir

Abstract

A new subcloud layer evaporation scheme is incorporated into Regional Climate Model, version 3 (RegCM3), to better simulate the rainfall distribution over a semiarid region around Kuwait. The new scheme represents subcloud layer evaporation of convective as well as large-scale rainfall. Model results are compared to observations from rain gauge data networks and satellites. The simulations show significant response to the incorporation of subcloud layer evaporation as a reduction by as much as 20% in annual rainfall occurs over the region. As a result, the new model simulations of annual rainfall are within 15% of observations. In addition, results indicate that the interannual variability of rainfall simulated by RegCM3 is sensitive to the specification of boundary conditions. For example, forcing RegCM3’s lateral boundary conditions with the 40-yr ECMWF Re-Analysis (ERA-40) data, instead of NCEP–NCAR’s Reanalysis Project 2 (NNRP2), reduces interannual variability by over 25%. Moreover, with subcloud layer evaporation incorporated and ERA-40 boundary conditions implemented, the model’s bias and root-mean-square error are significantly reduced. Therefore, the model’s ability to reproduce observed annual rainfall and the year-to-year variation of rainfall is greatly improved. Thus, these results elucidate the critical role of this natural process in simulating the hydroclimatology of semiarid climates. Last, a large discrepancy between observation datasets over the region is observed. It is believed that the inherent characteristics that are used to construct these datasets explain the differences observed in the annual and interannual variability of Kuwait’s rainfall.

Full access
Jeremy S. Pal and Elfatih A. B. Eltahir

Abstract

In this paper, the key pathways and mechanisms through which soil moisture conditions affect future rainfall over the U.S. Midwest are investigated using a regional climate model. A series of numerical experiments are performed to identify these pathways using the drought of 1988 and flood of 1993 as representative events.

The results suggest that the soil moisture–rainfall feedback is an important mechanism for hydrologic persistence during the late spring and summer over the midwestern United States. They indicate that the feedback between soil moisture and subsequent rainfall played a significant role in enhancing the persistence of the drought of 1988 and the flood of 1993. It is found that there is a pronounced asymmetry in the sensitivity of simulated rainfall to specified initial soil moisture. The asymmetry acts to favor a stronger soil moisture–rainfall feedback during drought conditions as opposed to flood conditions.

Detailed analyses of the simulations indicate that the impact of soil moisture on both the energy and water budgets is crucial in determining the strength of the soil moisture–rainfall feedback. Anomalously high soil moisture tends to 1) increase the flux of high moist static energy air into the planetary boundary layer from the surface via an increase in net surface radiation, 2) reduce the planetary boundary layer height thus increasing the moist static energy per unit mass of air, and 3) reduce the amount of entrained air of low moist static energy from above the planetary boundary layer. Each of these effects are additive and combine to increase the moist static energy per unit mass of air in the planetary boundary layer. This increase results in an increase in the frequency and magnitude of convective rainfall events and a positive feedback between soil moisture and subsequent rainfall.

Full access