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Guang J. Zhang

Abstract

Hourly satellite cloud data from 18 June to 18 July 1997 over the U.S. southern Great Plains are analyzed to study the scale-dependent cloud properties and their relationships to atmospheric conditions. The observed clouds are classified into high, midlevel, and low clouds according to their top heights. For each cloud type, contribution to the total cloud amount from clouds of different sizes is determined using a Lagrangian cloud classification scheme. It is found that in this continental, convectively active environment, more than half of the total cloud amount is from high clouds, of which 80% comes from clouds with area >4 × 104 km2. For midlevel clouds, more than 50% of the contribution to cloud amount is from small clouds (e.g., cloud area <4 × 104 km2). Almost all of the low clouds with significant contribution to cloud amount have spatial scales <4 × 104 km2. This suggests that most of the midlevel and low clouds are of subgrid scale to a typical GCM resolution (T42 or T63). It is further found that cloud radiative properties, such as cloud albedo, outgoing longwave radiation, and cloud radiative forcing, have strong scale dependence. Bigger clouds are brighter and have lower outgoing longwave radiation. These results indicate that contributions to the observed cloud radiative forcing are dominated by large cloud systems. The diurnal variation of the cloud properties is also examined.

Using concurrent meteorological analysis from NCEP, possible relationships between cloud properties and prevailing meteorological conditions were sought. It is found that clear relationships exist between cloud properties, such as cloud amount and albedo, and the layer-averaged relative humidity, and the relationships vary with cloud scale. In addition, cloud properties for high clouds are well correlated to vertical velocity in the upper troposphere. More large and highly reflective clouds tend to occur in regions of upward motion. Low clouds have a clear correspondence with the lower-tropospheric static stability and temperature. Large and thick clouds prefer to exist where the lower-tropospheric air is cold, statically more stable, and has high relative humidity.

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Xu Wang and Guang J. Zhang

Abstract

Low-frequency intraseasonal oscillations in the tropical atmosphere in general circulation models (GCMs) were studied extensively in many previous studies. However, the simulation of the quasi-biweekly oscillation (QBWO), which is an important component of the intraseasonal oscillations, in GCMs has not received much attention. This paper evaluates the QBWO features over the South China Sea in early [May–June (MJ)] and late [August–September (AS)] summer in the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Community Atmosphere Model, version 5.3 (CAM5), using observations and reanalysis data. Results show that the major features of the spatial distribution of the QBWO in both MJ and AS are simulated reasonably well by the model, although the amplitude of the variation is overestimated. CAM5 captures the local oscillation in MJ and the westward propagation in AS of the QBWO. Although there are important biases in geographical location and intensity in MJ, the model represents the QBWO horizontal and vertical structure qualitatively well in AS. The diagnosis of the eddy vorticity budget is conducted to better understand the QBWO activities in the model. Both horizontal advection of relative vorticity and that of planetary vorticity (Coriolis parameter) are important for the local evolution of the QBWO in MJ in observations as well as model simulation, whereas advection of planetary vorticity contributes to the westward propagation of QBWO vorticity anomalies in AS. Since the Coriolis parameter f only changes with latitude, this suggests that the correct simulation of anomalous meridional wind is a key factor in the realistic simulation of the QBWO in the model.

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Mingcheng Wang and Guang J. Zhang

Abstract

Using 4 years of CloudSat data, the simulation of tropical convective cloud-top heights (CCTH) above 6 km simulated by the convection scheme in the Community Atmosphere Model, version 5 (CAM5), is evaluated. Compared to CloudSat observations, CAM5 underestimates CCTH by more than 2 km on average. Further analysis of model results suggests that the dilute CAPE calculation, which has been incorporated into the convective parameterization since CAM4, is a main factor restricting CCTH to much lower levels. After removing this restriction, more convective clouds develop into higher altitudes, although convective clouds with tops above 12 km are still underestimated significantly. The environmental conditions under which convection develops in CAM5 are compared with CloudSat observations for convection with similar CCTHs. It is shown that the model atmosphere is much more unstable compared to CloudSat observations, and there is too much entrainment in CAM5. Since CCTHs are closely associated with cloud radiative forcing, the impacts of CCTH on model simulation are further investigated. Results show that the change of CCTH has important impacts on cloud radiative forcing and precipitation. With increased CCTHs, there is more cloud radiative forcing in tropical Africa and the eastern Pacific, but less cloud radiative forcing in the western Pacific. The contribution to total convective precipitation from convection with cloud tops above 9 km is also increased substantially.

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Fengfei Song and Guang J. Zhang

Abstract

During boreal spring, observations show a double ITCZ over the eastern Pacific, with the northern ITCZ stronger than the southern ITCZ. However, it is opposite in most climate models. It is also evident that there exists a cold bias in tropical North Atlantic (TNA) sea surface temperature (SST) and a warm bias in southeastern Pacific (SEP) SST. In this study, the influences of TNA and SEP SSTs on the double-ITCZ bias are investigated by prescribing the observed SST in these regions in the NCAR CESM1. Results show that when TNA SST is prescribed, the northern ITCZ is substantially enhanced and the southern ITCZ is moderately reduced, although the SST response in these regions is small. When the SEP SST is prescribed, the southern ITCZ is reduced considerably. When both TNA and SEP SSTs are prescribed, the double-ITCZ bias is reduced by ~68%. Moisture budget analysis suggests that dynamics, mainly the low-level convergence change, determines the above precipitation changes. Based on a mixed layer model, changes in low-level convergence are shown to be determined by surface pressure P s changes. With prescribed TNA/SEP SSTs, SST gradients change the P s in the region directly via the Lindzen–Nigam mechanism. The corresponding low-level circulation changes affect the 850-hPa thermodynamic state in a wider region, which in turn not only strengthens the SST-induced P s change locally but also leads to P s changes remotely, including the northern ITCZ region. Furthermore, the low-level convergence changes the vertical structure of moist static energy, altering the atmospheric stability and modulating precipitation distribution.

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Xiaoliang Song and Guang J. Zhang

Abstract

The eastern Pacific double-ITCZ bias has long been attributed to the warm bias of SST in the southeastern Pacific and associated local air–sea interaction. In this study, we conducted two simulations using the NCAR CESM1.2.1 to demonstrate that significant double-ITCZ bias can still form in the eastern Pacific through air–sea coupled feedback even when there is cold SST bias in the southeastern Pacific, indicating that other nonlocal culprits and mechanisms should be responsible for the double-ITCZ bias in the eastern Pacific. Further analyses show that the oversimulated convection in the northern ITCZ region and Central America in boreal winter may result in biases in the surface wind fields in the tropical northeastern Pacific in the atmospheric model, which favor the cooling of the ocean mixed layer through enhancement of latent heat flux and Ekman upwelling. These biases are passed into the ocean model in coupled simulations and result in a severe cold bias of SST in the northern ITCZ region. The overly cold SST bias persists in the subsequent spring, leading to the suppression of convection in the northern ITCZ region. The enhanced low-level cross-equatorial northerly wind strengthens the wind convergence south of the equator and transports abundant water vapor to the convergence zone, strengthening the southern ITCZ convection. All these processes lead to the disappearance of the northern ITCZ and the enhancement of the southern ITCZ in boreal spring, forming a seasonally alternating double-ITCZ bias. This study suggests that convection biases in the northern ITCZ region and Central America in boreal winter may be a culprit for the double-ITCZ bias in the eastern Pacific.

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Fengfei Song and Guang J. Zhang

ABSTRACT

The double-ITCZ bias has puzzled the climate modeling community for more than two decades. Here we show that, over the northeastern Pacific Ocean, precipitation and sea surface temperature (SST) biases are seasonally dependent in the NCAR CESM1 and 37 CMIP5 models, with positive biases during boreal summer–autumn and negative biases during boreal winter–spring, although the easterly wind bias persists year round. This seasonally dependent bias is found to be caused by the model’s failure to reproduce the climatological seasonal wind reversal of the North American monsoon. During winter–spring, the observed easterly wind dominates, so the simulated stronger wind speed enhances surface evaporation and lowers SST. It is opposite when the observed wind turns to westerly during summer–autumn. An easterly wind bias, mainly evident in the lower troposphere, also occurs in the atmospheric model when the observed SST is prescribed, suggesting that it is of atmospheric origin. When the atmospheric model resolution is doubled in the CESM1, both SST and precipitation are improved in association with the reduced easterly wind bias. During boreal spring, when the double-ITCZ bias is most significant, the northern and southern ITCZ can be improved by 29.0% and 18.8%, respectively, by increasing the horizontal resolution in the CESM1. When dividing the 37 CMIP5 models into two groups on the basis of their horizontal resolutions, it is found that both the seasonally dependent biases over the northeastern Pacific and year-round biases over the southeastern Pacific are reduced substantially in the higher-resolution models, with improvement of ~30% in both regions during boreal spring. Close relationships between wind and precipitation biases over the northeastern and southeastern Pacific are also found among CMIP5 models.

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Guang J. Zhang and Mingquan Mu

Abstract

This study presents the simulation of the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) in the NCAR CCM3 using a modified Zhang–McFarlane convection parameterization scheme. It is shown that, with the modified scheme, the intraseasonal (20–80 day) variability in precipitation, zonal wind, and outgoing longwave radiation (OLR) is enhanced substantially compared to the standard CCM3 simulation. Using a composite technique based on the empirical orthogonal function (EOF) analysis, the paper demonstrates that the simulated MJOs are in better agreement with the observations than the standard model in many important aspects. The amplitudes of the MJOs in 850-mb zonal wind, precipitation, and OLR are comparable to those of the observations, and the MJOs show clearly eastward propagation from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific. In contrast, the simulated MJOs in the standard CCM3 simulation are weak and have a tendency to propagate westward in the Indian Ocean. Nevertheless, there remain several deficiencies that are yet to be addressed. The time period of the MJOs is shorter, about 30 days, compared to the observed time period of 40 days. The spatial scale of the precipitation signal is smaller than observed.

Examination of convective heating from both deep and shallow convection and its relationship with moisture anomalies indicates that near the mature phase of the MJO, regions of shallow convection developing ahead of the deep convection coincide with regions of positive moisture anomalies in the lower troposphere. This is consistent with the recent observations and theoretical development that shallow convection helps to precondition the atmosphere for MJO by moistening the lower troposphere.

Sensitivity tests are performed on the individual changes in the modified convection scheme. They show that both change of closure and use of a relative humidity threshold for the convection trigger play important roles in improving the MJO simulation. Use of the new closure leads to the eastward propagation of the MJO and increases the intensity of the MJO signal in the wind field, while imposing a relative humidity threshold enhances the MJO variability in precipitation.

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Guang J. Zhang and Xiaoqing Wu

Abstract

This study uses a 2D cloud-resolving model to investigate the vertical transport of horizontal momentum and to understand the role of a convection-generated perturbation pressure field in the momentum transport by convective systems during part of the Tropical Ocean and Global Atmosphere Coupled Ocean–Atmosphere Response Experiment (TOGA COARE) Intensive Observation Period. It shows that convective updrafts transport a significant amount of momentum vertically. This transport is downgradient in the easterly wind regime, but upgradient during a westerly wind burst. The differences in convective momentum transport between easterly and westerly wind regimes are examined.

The perturbation pressure gradient accounts for an important part of the apparent momentum source. In general it is opposite in sign to the product of cloud mass flux and the vertical wind shear, with smaller magnitude. Examination of the dynamic forcing to the pressure field demonstrates that the linear forcing representing the interaction between the convective updrafts and the large-scale wind shear is the dominant term, while the nonlinear forcing is of secondary importance. Thus, parameterization schemes taking into account the linear interaction between the convective updrafts and the large-scale wind shear can capture the essential features of the perturbation pressure field.

The parameterization scheme for momentum transport by Zhang and Cho is evaluated using the model simulation data. The parameterized pressure gradient force using the scheme is in excellent agreement with the simulated one. The parameterized apparent momentum source is also in good agreement with the model simulation. Other parameterization methods for the pressure gradient are also discussed.

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Fengfei Song and Guang J. Zhang

Abstract

The double intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) is a long-standing bias in the climatology of coupled general circulation models (CGCMs). The warm biases in southeastern Pacific (SEP) sea surface temperature (SST) are also evident in many CGCMs. In this study, the role of SEP SST in the double ITCZ is investigated by prescribing the observed SEP SST in the Community Earth System Model, version 1 (CESM1). Both the double ITCZ and dry equator problems are significantly improved with SEP SST prescribed. Both atmospheric and oceanic processes are involved in the improvements. The colder SST over the SEP decreases the precipitation, which enhances the southeasterly winds outside the prescribed SST region, cooling the ocean via increased evaporation. The enhanced descending motion over the SEP strengthens the Walker circulation. The easterly winds over the equatorial Pacific enhance upwelling and shoal the thermocline over the eastern Pacific. The changes of surface wind and wind curl lead to a weaker South Equatorial Countercurrent and stronger South Equatorial Current, preventing the warm water from expanding eastward, thereby improving both the double ITCZ and dry equator. The enhanced Walker circulation also increases the low-level wind convergence and reduces the wind speed in the tropical western Pacific, leading to warmer SST and stronger convection there. The stronger convection in turn leads to more cloud and reduces the incoming solar radiation, cooling the SST. These competing effects between radiative heat flux and latent heat flux make the atmospheric heat flux secondary to the ocean dynamics in the western Pacific warming.

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Fengfei Song and Guang J. Zhang

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Using observations from the Green Ocean Amazon (GOAmazon) field campaign, this study aims to improve trigger functions of convection schemes. Results show that the CAPE generation rate (dCAPE)-type triggers are the first tier and that the Bechtold and heated condensation framework (HCF) triggers are a distant second tier. The composite analysis reveals that the undilute dCAPE trigger underpredicts convection when there is bottom-heavy upward motion but overpredicts convection with low-level downward and upper-level upward motions. The empirical orthogonal function (EOF) analysis on vertical velocity shows that EOF1 (62.65%) exhibits upward motion throughout the troposphere and that EOF2 (28.05%) has lower-level upward motion and upper-level downward motion. Both of them have close relationships with precipitation, indicating the role of vertical velocity in triggering convection. The skill sensitivity analysis shows that the inclusion of 700-hPa upward motion significantly enhances the undilute dCAPE trigger. For the dilute dCAPE trigger, entrainment rate and dCAPE threshold are optimized to improve it. Opposite to dCAPE-type triggers, the Bechtold trigger overemphasizes the low-level vertical velocity and underpredicts the mature and decaying phases of long-lasting convection events. The HCF trigger overemphasizes the near-surface moist static energy and overlooks the vertical velocity. The performance of dCAPE-type triggers on various convective systems over the Amazon region is examined. The eastward-propagating systems are best represented, with only a few underpredictions in their decaying stages. The weak locally occurring systems and marginal phases of westward-propagating systems are easy to underpredict. The revised dCAPE-type triggers perform better on different convection systems and the diurnal cycle of convection.

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