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Fei Chen and Jimy Dudhia

Abstract

This paper addresses and documents a number of issues related to the implementation of an advanced land surface–hydrology model in the Penn State–NCAR fifth-generation Mesoscale Model (MM5). The concept adopted here is that the land surface model should be able to provide not only reasonable diurnal variations of surface heat fluxes as surface boundary conditions for coupled models, but also correct seasonal evolutions of soil moisture in the context of a long-term data assimilation system. In a similar way to that in which the modified Oregon State University land surface model (LSM) has been used in the NCEP global and regional forecast models, it is implemented in MM5 to facilitate the initialization of soil moisture. Also, 1-km resolution vegetation and soil texture maps are introduced in the coupled MM5–LSM system to help identify vegetation/water/soil characteristics at fine scales and capture the feedback of these land surface forcings. A monthly varying climatological 0.15° × 0.15° green vegetation fraction is utilized to represent the annual control of vegetation on the surface evaporation. Specification of various vegetation and soil parameters is discussed, and the available water capacity in the LSM is extended to account for subgrid-scale heterogeneity. The coupling of the LSM to MM5 is also sensitive to the treatment of the surface layer, especially the calculation of the roughness length for heat/moisture. Including the effect of the molecular sublayer can improve the simulation of surface heat flux. It is shown that the soil thermal and hydraulic conductivities and the surface energy balance are very sensitive to soil moisture changes. Hence, it is necessary to establish an appropriate soil moisture data assimilation system to improve the soil moisture initialization at fine scales.

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Fei Chen and Michael Ghil

Abstract

A hybrid coupled ocean–atmosphere model is used to investigate low-frequency variability in the climate system. The model's atmospheric component is a Budyko-Sellers-North, two-dimensional energy-balance model; the oceanic component is a simplified general circulation model. The coupled model is confined to an idealized, rectangular North Atlantic basin. In the present model version, the ocean density depends exclusively on temperature.

An interdecadal oscillation with a period of 40–50 years is found in the hybrid coupled model when model parameters are within the climatological range, even though density does not depend on salinity. This interdecadal oscillation is characterized by a pair of vortices of opposite signs, that grow and decay in quadrature with each other in the ocean's upper layer; their centers follow each other anticlockwise through the northwestern quadrant of the model domain.

The interdecadal oscillation's physical mechanism resembles that of the interdecadal oscillation analyzed in an earlier, uncoupled model by the same authors. Central to the mechanism is the prescribed component in the surface heat fluxes. In this coupled model, the prescribed forcing component comes from solar radiation. Surface-density variations in high latitudes drive the oscillation and are due to the cooling effect of atmospheric forcing there.

Sensitivity studies are performed by adjusting two free parameters in the model: the atmospheric thermal diffusion coefficient and air-sea coupling coefficient. The 40–50 year oscillation arises, by Hopf bifurcation as the model parameters cross the neutral stability curve. The resulting limit cycle is fairly robust, exists in a wide parameter range, and responds more to the diffusion parameter than the coupling parameter. Larger values of both parameters reduce the amplitude of the interdecadal oscillation, but neither affects crucially its period.

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Roni Avissar and Fei Chen

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Mesoscale circulations generated by landscape discontinuities (e.g., sea breezes) are likely to have a significant impact on the hydrologic cycle, the climate, and the weather. However, these processes are not represented in large-scale atmospheric models (e.g., general circulation models), which have an inappropriate grid-scale resolution. With the assumption that atmospheric variables can be separated into large scale, mesoscale, and turbulent scale, a set of prognostic equations applicable in large-scale atmospheric models for momentum, temperature, moisture, and any other gaseous or aerosol material, which includes both mesoscale and turbulent fluxes is developed. Prognostic equations are also developed for these mesoscale fluxes, which indicate a closure problem and, therefore, require a parameterization. For this purpose, the mean mesoscale kinetic energy (MKE) per unit of mass is used, defined as Ẽ = 0.5 〈u i ′2〉 where u i represents the three Cartesian components of a mesoscale circulation (the angle bracket symbol is the grid-scale, horizontal averaging operator in the large-scale model, and a tilde indicates a corresponding large-scale mean value). A prognostic equation is developed for Ẽ, and an analysis of the different terms of this equation indicates that the mesoscale vertical heat flux, the mesoscale pressure correlation, and the interaction between turbulence and mesoscale perturbations are the major terms that affect the time tendency of Ẽ. A state-of-the-art mesoscale atmospheric model is used to investigate the relationship between MKE, landscape discontinuities (as characterized by the spatial distribution of heat fluxes at the earth's surface), and mesoscale sensible and latent heat fluxes in the atmosphere. MKE is compared with turbulence kinetic energy to illustrate the importance of mesoscale processes as compared to turbulent processes. This analysis emphasizes the potential use of MKE to bridge between landscape discontinuities and mesoscale fluxes and, therefore, to parameterize mesoscale fluxes generated by such subgrid-scale landscape discontinuities in large-scale atmospheric models.

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Fei Chen and Michael Ghil

Abstract

An idealized North Atlantic Ocean model is forced by climatological wind stress, restoring temperature, and a diagnosed salinity flux. Both centennial and interdecadal oscillations are sustained in the model if the diagnosed salinity flux is characterized by net evaporation in high latitudes. To investigate further the role of salinity fluxes two different linear profiles are imposed: one has net evaporation in high latitudes and the other net precipitation. The first salinity flux induces a purely interdecadal oscillation in the model, while the second one causes a millennial and a decadal-to-interdecadal oscillation. Next, the authors consider a boundary condition for temperature expressed as the sum of a fixed heat flux and a restoring term. Constant heat flux characterized by net cooling in high latitudes leads to an interdecadal oscillation similar to the one caused by net evaporation.

Both the decadal-to-interdecadal and the purely interdecadal oscillation are upper-ocean phenomena. Inter-decadal anomalies are mainly confined to high latitudes, with their center moving anticlockwise near the north-west corner of the model domain; they are amplified and sink in that region. Decadal-to-interdecadal anomalies are mainly confined to midlatitudes, advected eastward by the mean flow, and disappear near the cast coast.

The physical mechanisms for the two oscillations are different. The interdecadal oscillation is caused by surface-density variations in northern high latitudes; variations are due to either net evaporation from the applied salinity flux or constant cooling from the applied heat flux. The decadal-to-interdecadal oscillation is a by-product of deep-water warming, due to the strong braking effect of salinity forcing on thermal forcing: surface saline water from the subtropics overlies continuously warming intermediate water to provide a favorable environment for the decadal-to-interdecadal oscillation. Further analysis implies that in a fully coupled ocean-atmosphere situation the decadal-to-interdecadal oscillation is less likely to exist.

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Fei Chen and Jimy Dudhia

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A number of short-term numerical experiments conducted by the Penn State–NCAR fifth-generation Mesoscale Model (MM5) coupled with an advanced land surface model, alongside the simulations coupled with a simple slab model, are verified with observations. For clear sky day cases, the MM5 model gives reasonable estimates of radiation forcing at the surface with solar radiation being slightly overestimated probably due to the lack of aerosol treatment in the current MM5 radiation scheme. The improvements in the calculation of surface latent and sensible heat fluxes with the new land surface model (LSM) are very apparent, and more importantly, the new LSM captures the correct Bowen ratio. Evaporation obtained from the simple slab model is significantly lower than observations. Having time-varying soil moisture is important for capturing even short-term evolution of evaporation. Due to the more reasonable diurnal cycle of surface heat fluxes in the MM5–LSM, its near-surface temperature and humidity are closer to the FIFE observations. In particular, the MM5–slab model has a systematic warm bias in 2-m temperature. Both the slab model and the new LSM were coupled with the nonlocal Medium-Range Forecast model PBL parameterization scheme and they reproduced the depth of the morning surface inversion in the stable boundary layer well. The observed mixed layer in the late morning deepens faster than both models, despite the fact that both models have high bias in surface sensible heat fluxes. Presumably, such a rapid development of convective mixed layer is due to some effects induced by small-scale heterogeneity or large-scale advection that the MM5 failed to capture. Both surface models reasonably reproduce the daytime convective PBL growth and, in general, the temperature difference between the two models and observations is less than 2°. The simulations of two rainfall events are not conclusive. Both models produce a good forecast of rainfall for 24 June 1997 and have similar problems for the event of 4 July 1997, although the simulations with the new LSM have slightly improved results in some 3-h rainfall accumulations. It seems that the new LSM does not have unexpected influences in situations for which the land surface processes are secondary, but that it may have subtle, though complex, effects on the model behavior because of heterogeneity introduced by soil moisture, vegetation effects, and soil type, which are all lacking in the slab model.

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Fei Chen and Roni Avissar

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Vertical heat fluxes associated with mesoscale circulations generated by land-surface wetness discontinuities are often stronger than turbulent fluxes, especially in the upper part of the atmospheric planetary boundary layer. As a result, they contribute significantly to the subgrid-scale fluxes in large-scale atmospheric models. Yet they are not considered in these models. To provide some insights into the possible parameterization of these fluxes in large-scale models, a state-of-the-art mesoscale numerical model was used to investigate the relationships between mesoscale heat fluxes and atmospheric and land-surface characteristics that play a key role in the generation of mesoscale circulations. The distribution of land-surface wetness, the wavenumber and the wavelength of the land-surface discontinuities, and the large-scale wind speed have a significant impact on the mesoscale heat fluxes. Empirical functions were derived to characterize the relationships between mesoscale heat fluxes and the spatial distribution of land-surface wetness. The strongest mesoscale heat fluxes were obtained for a wavelength of forcing corresponding approximately to the local Rossby deformation radius. The mesoscale heat fluxes are weakened by large-scale background winds but remain significant even with moderate winds.

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Fei Chen and Roni Avissar

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Numerical experiments using a state-of-the-art high-resolution mesoscale cloud model showed that land-surface moisture significantly affects the timing of onset of clouds and the intensity and distribution of precipitation. In general, landscape discontinuity enhances shallow convective precipitation. Two mechanisms that are strongly modulated by land-surface moisture—namely, random turbulent thermal cells and organized sea-breeze-like mesoscale circulations—also determine the horizontal distribution of maximum precipitation. However, interactions between shallow cumulus and land-surface moisture are highly nonlinear and complicated by different factors, such as atmospheric thermodynamic structure and large-scale background wind. This analysis also showed that land-surface moisture discontinuities seem to play a more important role in a relatively dry atmosphere, and that the strongest precipitation is produced by a wavelength of land-surface forcing equivalent to the local Rossby radius of deformation. A general trend between the maximum precipitation and the normalized maximum latent heat flux was identified. In general, large values of mesoscale latent heat flux imply strongly developed mesoscale circulations and intense cloud activity, accompanied by large surface latent heat fluxes that transport more water vapor into the atmosphere.

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Han-Ching Chen and Fei-Fei Jin

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El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events tend to peak at the end of the calendar year, a phenomenon called ENSO phase locking. This phase locking is a fundamental ENSO property that is determined by its basic dynamics. The conceptual ENSO recharge oscillator (RO) model is adopted to examine the ENSO phase-locking behavior in terms of its peak time, strength of phase locking, and asymmetry between El Niño and La Niña events. The RO model reproduces the main phase-locking characteristics found in observations, and the results show that the phase locking of ENSO is mainly dominated by the seasonal modulation of ENSO growth/decay rate. In addition, the linear/nonlinear mechanism of ENSO phase preference/phase locking is investigated using RO model. The difference between the nonlinear phase-locking mechanism and linear phase-preference mechanism is largely smoothed out in the presence of noise forcing. Further, the impact on ENSO phase locking from annual cycle modulation of the growth/decay rate, stochastic forcing, nonlinearity, and linear frequency are examined in the RO model. The preferred month of ENSO peak time depends critically on the phase and strength of the seasonal modulation of the ENSO growth/decay rate. Furthermore, the strength of phase locking is mainly controlled by the linear growth/decay rate, the amplitude of seasonal modulation of growth/decay rate, the amplitude of noise, the SST-dependent factor of multiplicative noise, and the linear frequency. The asymmetry of the sharpness of ENSO phase locking is induced by the asymmetric effect of state-dependent noise forcing in El Niño and La Niña events.

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Fei Chen, Thomas T. Warner, and Kevin Manning

Abstract

A number of numerical experiments with a high-resolution mesoscale model were conducted to study the convective rainfall event that caused the 1996 Buffalo Creek, Colorado, flash flood. Different surface conditions and treatments of land surface physics were utilized to assess the sensitivity of this orographic moist convection to local and regional landscape forcing.

Given accurate large-scale synoptic conditions at the lateral boundaries, the mesoscale model with a convection-resolving grid shows reasonably good skill in simulating this convective event with a lead time of up to 12 h. Sensitivity experiments show that a primary reason for this success is the use of an advanced land surface model that provides time-varying soil-moisture fields. This land surface model plays an important role in capturing the complex interactions among the land surface, the PBL, cloud-modulated radiation, and precipitation. For the case simulated, such interactions contribute to the temporal and spatial distribution of surface heating at small scales, and the convective triggering and development.

Tests show that the landscape variability at small and large scales significantly affects the location and intensity of the moist convection. For example, on timescales of 6 to 12 h, differences in initial soil moisture associated with irrigation in the plains affect the evolution of the convection near the Continental Divide. Also, the surface modification by a wildfire burn influences the path of the major convective event that caused the flash flood.

A watershed-based quantitative-precipitation-forecast skill score is proposed and employed. The relative success with which this severe thunderstorm is simulated over complex terrain provides some hope that the careful treatment of land surface physics in convection-resolving models can perhaps provide some useful level of predictability.

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David N. Yates, Fei Chen, and Haruyasu Nagai

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Multiscale atmospheric forcing data at 1-, 5-, and 10-km scales from the 1997 Cooperative Atmosphere Surface Exchange Study (CASES-97) were used to drive three uncoupled land surface models: the National Center for Atmospheric Research Land Surface Model version 1 (NCAR LSM), the Oregon State University Land Surface Model (OSU LSM), and the Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute's Atmosphere–Soil–Vegetation Model (SOLVEG). The data included high-resolution, gauge-corrected precipitation estimates from dual-polarization radar, with the experimental period covering the spring green-up process.

The effects of increasing scale on modeled estimates of the domain mean flux were more pronounced when there was greater heterogeneity of the land surface in terms of the surface vegetation, although this result was model dependent. All models made use of prescribed parameters based on dominant land cover at the different scales, not effective parameters, leading to situations where the coarser-scale flux response fell outside the subset of the 1-km estimated flux range, largely a result of the disparity between the characteristics of the different land surfaces (e.g., bare soil, winter wheat, grasses, and urban). The scaling effects on the statistical distribution of fluxes were more pronounced when there was greater heterogeneity with respect to land cover. The NCAR LSM includes a “capping” scheme to soil moisture resistance and leads to a noticeable difference in its response when compared with SOLVEG and OSU LSM, which adopt a more gradually varied surface resistance scheme to soil moisture dryness.

The outcome of this study suggests the importance of incorporating actual land surface characteristics in land surface models, and tries to advance important issues regarding land surface parameterization schemes. LSMs need to endogenously simulate vegetation dynamics that respond to actual environmental conditions. Current datasets that describe the dominant land surface and that are used to parameterize many LSMs are inadequate because they treat the land surface as stationary heterogeneous, when in fact the land surface is nonstationary heterogeneous.

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