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Kevin A. Reed and Christiane Jablonowski

Abstract

The paper discusses the design of idealized tropical cyclone experiments in atmospheric general circulation models (AGCMs). The evolution of an initially weak, warm-core vortex is investigated over a 10-day period with varying initial conditions that include variations of the maximum wind speed and radius of maximum wind. The initialization of the vortex is built upon prescribed 3D moisture, pressure, temperature, and velocity fields that are embedded into tropical environmental conditions. The initial fields are in exact hydrostatic and gradient-wind balance in an axisymmetric form. The formulation is then generalized to provide analytic initial conditions for an approximately balanced vortex in AGCMs with height-based vertical coordinates. An extension for global models with pressure-based vertical coordinates is presented. The analytic initialization technique can easily be implemented on any AGCM computational grid.

The characteristics of the idealized tropical cyclone experiments are illustrated in high-resolution model simulations with the Community Atmosphere Model version 3.1 (CAM 3.1) developed at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. The finite-volume dynamical core in CAM 3.1 with 26 vertical levels is used, and utilizes an aquaplanet configuration with constant sea surface temperatures of 29°C. The impact of varying initial conditions and horizontal resolutions on the evolution of the tropical cyclone–like vortex is investigated. Identical physical parameterizations with a constant parameter set are used at all horizontal resolutions. The sensitivity studies reveal that the initial wind speed and radius of maximum wind need to lie above a threshold to support the intensification of the analytic initial vortex at horizontal grid spacings of 0.5° and 0.25° (or 55 and 28 km in the equatorial regions). The thresholds lie between 15 and 20 m s−1 with a radius of maximum wind of about 200–250 km. In addition, a convergence study with the grid spacings 1.0°, 0.5°, 0.25°, and 0.125° (or 111, 55, 28, and 14 km) shows that the cyclone gets more intense and compact with increasing horizontal resolution. The 0.5°, 0.25°, and 0.125° simulations exhibit many tropical cyclone–like characteristics such as a warm-core, low-level wind maxima, a slanted eyewall-like vertical structure and a relatively calm eye. The 0.125° simulation even starts to resolve spiral rainbands and reaches maximum wind speeds of about 72–83 m s−1 at low levels. These wind speeds are equivalent to a category-5 tropical cyclone on the Saffir–Simpson hurricane scale. It is suggested that the vortex initialization technique can be used as an idealized tool to study the impact of varying resolutions, physical parameterizations, and numerical schemes on the simulation and representation of tropical cyclone–like vortices in global atmospheric models.

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Daniel R. Chavas and Kevin A. Reed

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Existing hypotheses for the dynamical dependence of tropical cyclone genesis and size on latitude depend principally on the Coriolis parameter f. These hypotheses are tested via dynamical aquaplanet experiments with uniform thermal forcing in which planetary rotation rate and planetary radius are varied relative to Earth values; the control simulation is also compared to a present-day Earth simulation. Storm genesis rate collapses to a quasi-universal dependence on f that attains its maximum at the critical latitude, where the inverse-f scale and Rhines scale are equal. Minimum genesis distance from the equator is set by the equatorial Rhines (or deformation) scale and not by a minimum value of f. Outer storm size qualitatively follows the smaller of the two length scales, including a slow increase with latitude equatorward of 45° in the control simulation, similar to the Earth simulation. The latitude of peak size scales with the critical latitude for varying planetary radius but not rotation rate, possibly because of the dependence of genesis specifically on f. The latitudes of peak size and peak packing density scale closely together. Results suggest that temporal effects and interstorm interaction may be significant for size dynamics. More generally, the critical latitude separates two regimes: 1) a mixed wave–cyclone equatorial belt, where wave effects are strong and the Rhines scale likely limits storm size, and 2) a cyclone-filled polar cap, where wave effects are weak and cyclones persist. The large-planet limit predicts a world nearly covered with long-lived storms, equivalent to the f plane. Overall, spherical geometry is likely important for understanding tropical cyclone genesis and size on Earthlike planets.

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Adam R. Herrington and Kevin A. Reed

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The sensitivity of the mean state of the Community Atmosphere Model to horizontal resolutions typical of present-day general circulation models is investigated in an aquaplanet configuration. Nonconvergence of the mean state is characterized by a progressive drying of the atmosphere and large reductions in cloud coverage with increasing resolution. Analyses of energy and moisture budgets indicate that these trends are balanced by variations in moisture transport by the resolved circulation, and a reduction in activity of the convection scheme. In contrast, the large-scale precipitation rate increases with resolution, which is approximately balanced by greater advection of dry static energy associated with more active resolved vertical motion in the ascent region of the Hadley cell.

An explanation for the sensitivity of the mean state to horizontal resolution is proposed, based on linear Boussinesq theory. The authors hypothesize that an increase in horizontal resolution in the model leads to a reduction in horizontal scale of the diabatic forcing arising from the column physics, facilitating finescale flow and faster resolved convective updrafts within the dynamical core, and steering the coupled system toward a new mean state. This hypothesis attempts to explain the underlying mechanism driving the variations in moisture transport observed in the simulations.

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Arianna M. Varuolo-Clarke, Kevin A. Reed, and Brian Medeiros

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This work examines the effect of horizontal resolution and topography on the North American monsoon (NAM) in experiments with an atmospheric general circulation model. Observations are used to evaluate the fidelity of the representation of the monsoon in simulations from the Community Atmosphere Model version 5 (CAM5) with a standard 1.0° grid spacing and a high-resolution 0.25° grid spacing. The simulated monsoon has some realistic features, but both configurations also show precipitation biases. The default 1.0° grid spacing configuration simulates a monsoon with an annual cycle and intensity of precipitation within the observational range, but the monsoon begins and ends too gradually and does not reach far enough north. This study shows that the improved representation of topography in the high-resolution (0.25° grid spacing) configuration improves the regional circulation and therefore some aspects of the simulated monsoon compared to the 1.0° counterpart. At higher resolution, CAM5 simulates a stronger low pressure center over the American Southwest, with more realistic low-level wind flow than in the 1.0° configuration. As a result, the monsoon precipitation increases as does the amplitude of the annual cycle of precipitation. A moisture analysis sheds light on the monsoon dynamics, indicating that changes in the advection of enthalpy and moist static energy drive the differences between monsoon precipitation in CAM5 1.0° compared to the 0.25° configuration. Additional simulations confirm that these improvements are mainly due to the topographic influence on the low-level flow through the Gulf of California, and not only the increase in horizontal resolution.

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Colin M. Zarzycki, Paul A. Ullrich, and Kevin A. Reed

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This article describes a software suite that can be used for objective evaluation of tropical cyclones (TCs) in gridded climate data. Using cyclone trajectories derived from 6-hourly data, a comprehensive set of metrics is defined to systematically compare and contrast products with one another. In addition to annual TC climatologies, attention is paid to spatial and temporal patterns of storm occurrence and intensity. Assessment can be performed either on the global scale or for regional domains. Simple-to-visualize “scorecards” allow for rapid credibility assessment. We showcase three key findings enabled by this suite. First, we compare the representation of TCs in seven current-generation global reanalyses and conclude that higher-resolution models and those with TC-specific assimilation contain more accurate storm climatologies. Second, using a free-running Earth system model (ESM) we find that full basin refinement is required in variable-resolution configurations to adequately simulate North Atlantic Ocean TC frequency. Upstream refinement over northern Africa offers little benefit in simulating storm occurrence, but spatial genesis patterns are improved. We also show that TCs simulated by ESMs can be highly sensitive to individual parameterizations in climate models, with North Atlantic TC metrics varying greatly depending on the version of the Morrison–Gettelman microphysics package that is used.

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Funing Li, Daniel R. Chavas, Kevin A. Reed, and Daniel T. Dawson II

Abstract

Severe local storm (SLS) activity is known to occur within specific thermodynamic and kinematic environments. These environments are commonly associated with key synoptic-scale features—including southerly Great Plains low-level jets, drylines, elevated mixed layers, and extratropical cyclones—that link the large-scale climate to SLS environments. This work analyzes spatiotemporal distributions of both extreme values of SLS environmental parameters and synoptic-scale features in the ERA5 reanalysis and in the Community Atmosphere Model, version 6 (CAM6), historical simulation during 1980–2014 over North America. Compared to radiosondes, ERA5 successfully reproduces SLS environments, with strong spatiotemporal correlations and low biases, especially over the Great Plains. Both ERA5 and CAM6 reproduce the climatology of SLS environments over the central United States as well as its strong seasonal and diurnal cycles. ERA5 and CAM6 also reproduce the climatological occurrence of the synoptic-scale features, with the distribution pattern similar to that of SLS environments. Compared to ERA5, CAM6 exhibits a high bias in convective available potential energy over the eastern United States primarily due to a high bias in surface moisture and, to a lesser extent, storm-relative helicity due to enhanced low-level winds. Composite analysis indicates consistent synoptic anomaly patterns favorable for significant SLS environments over much of the eastern half of the United States in both ERA5 and CAM6, though the pattern differs for the southeastern United States. Overall, our results indicate that both ERA5 and CAM6 are capable of reproducing SLS environments as well as the synoptic-scale features and transient events that generate them.

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Noel E. Davidson, Kevin J. Tory, Michael J. Reeder, and Wasyl L. Drosdowsky

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The onset of the Australian monsoon is examined using (i) reanalysis data for seasons when enhanced observational networks were available and (ii) a 15-yr onset composite. Similar to previous findings, onset is characterized by a sudden strengthening and deepening in tropical westerly winds, which are overlain with upper-tropospheric easterlies. All onsets are preceded by up to a 7-day preconditioning period of enhanced vertical motion and moistening. During the transition season, the 6 weeks prior to onset, a number of moist westerly events occur. Generally they are only sustained for short periods and overlain by upper-level westerly winds, suggesting an association with midlatitude troughs, which protrude into the deep Tropics.

For individual years and for a 15-yr composite, monsoon onset is associated with major cyclogenesis events over the southwest Indian Ocean in the presence of a subtropical jet over the eastern Indian Ocean. The proposed mechanism for extratropical–tropical interaction is northeastward Rossby wave propagation from the cyclogenesis region toward the Tropics at upper levels. At these levels, westerly winds extend to nearly 10°S and provide a favorable background flow for such propagation. The process eventually results in the amplification of an equatorward-extending midlatitude upper trough and tropical ridge, which appears to trigger the development of the underlying monsoon trough. To test the hypothesis, the influence of high-latitude cyclogenesis on the tropical circulation is investigated with the aid of an idealized, dry, three-dimensional, baroclinic wave channel model. The initial state consists of (i) a zonally constant baroclinic region centered on 40°S, from which the high-latitude cyclogenesis develops, (ii) a weak monsoon trough at 15°S, and (iii) a subtropical jet at 25°S.

The major findings from the simulations are as follows: 1) There is evidence of northeastward Rossby wave propagation from the cyclogenesis region toward low latitudes. 2) Consistent with theoretical studies, the subtropical jet plays a key role by providing a favorable westerly background flow for group propagation into the Tropics. 3) High-latitude cyclogenesis in the presence of a subtropical jet can influence the meridional location, zonal structure, vorticity, and divergence in the monsoon trough. 4) Vorticity and divergence changes are consistent with enhancement of the monsoon trough (increases in low-level cyclonic vorticity) and the potential for triggering a large-scale convective outbreak (changes in upper-level divergence).

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Alyssa M. Stansfield, Kevin A. Reed, Colin M. Zarzycki, Paul A. Ullrich, and Daniel R. Chavas

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Tropical cyclones (TCs) can subject an area to heavy precipitation for many hours, or even days, worsening the risk of flooding, which creates dangerous conditions for residents of the U.S. East and Gulf Coasts. To study the representation of TC-related precipitation over the eastern United States in current-generation global climate models, a novel analysis methodology is developed to track TCs and extract their associated precipitation using an estimate of their dynamical outer size. This methodology is applied to three variable-resolution (VR) configurations of the Community Atmosphere Model, version 5 (CAM5), with high-resolution domains over the North Atlantic and one low-resolution conventional configuration, as well as to a combination of reanalysis and observational precipitation data. Metrics and diagnostics such as TC counts, intensities, outer storm sizes, and annual mean total and extreme precipitation are compared between the CAM5 simulations and reanalysis/observations. The high-resolution VR configurations outperform the global low-resolution configuration for all variables in the North Atlantic. Realistic TC intensities are produced by the VR configurations. The total North Atlantic TC counts are lower than observations but better than reanalysis.

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Enrico Scoccimarro, Pier Giuseppe Fogli, Kevin A. Reed, Silvio Gualdi, Simona Masina, and Antonio Navarra

Abstract

Through tropical cyclone (TC) activity the ocean and the atmosphere exchange a large amount of energy. In this work possible improvements introduced by a higher coupling frequency are tested between the two components of a climate model in the representation of TC intensity and TC–ocean feedbacks. The analysis is based on the new Centro Euro-Mediterraneo per I Cambiamenti Climatici Climate Model (CMCC-CM2-VHR), capable of representing realistic TCs up to category-5 storms. A significant role of the negative sea surface temperature (SST) feedback, leading to a weakening of the cyclone intensity, is made apparent by the improved representation of high-frequency coupled processes. The first part of this study demonstrates that a more realistic representation of strong TC count is obtained by coupling atmosphere and ocean components at hourly instead of daily frequency. Coherently, the positive bias of the annually averaged power dissipation index associated with TCs is reduced by one order of magnitude when coupling at the hourly frequency, compared to both forced mode and daily coupling frequency results. The second part of this work shows a case study (a modeled category-5 typhoon) analysis to verify the impact of a more realistic representation of the high-frequency coupling in representing the TC effect on the ocean; the theoretical subsurface warming induced by TCs is well represented when coupling the two components at the higher frequency. This work demonstrates that an increased horizontal resolution of model components is not sufficient to ensure a realistic representation of intense and fast-moving systems, such as tropical and extratropical cyclones, but a concurrent increase in coupling frequency is required.

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Michael Wehner, Prabhat, Kevin A. Reed, Dáithí Stone, William D. Collins, and Julio Bacmeister

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The four idealized configurations of the U.S. CLIVAR Hurricane Working Group are integrated using the global Community Atmospheric Model version 5.1 at two different horizontal resolutions, approximately 100 and 25 km. The publicly released 0.9° × 1.3° configuration is a poor predictor of the sign of the 0.23° × 0.31° model configuration’s change in the total number of tropical storms in a warmer climate. However, it does predict the sign of the higher-resolution configuration’s change in the number of intense tropical cyclones in a warmer climate. In the 0.23° × 0.31° model configuration, both increased CO2 concentrations and elevated sea surface temperature (SST) independently lower the number of weak tropical storms and shorten their average duration. Conversely, increased SST causes more intense tropical cyclones and lengthens their average duration, resulting in a greater number of intense tropical cyclone days globally. Increased SST also increased maximum tropical storm instantaneous precipitation rates across all storm intensities. It was found that while a measure of maximum potential intensity based on climatological mean quantities adequately predicts the 0.23° × 0.31° model’s forced response in its most intense simulated tropical cyclones, a related measure of cyclogenesis potential fails to predict the model’s actual cyclogenesis response to warmer SSTs. These analyses lead to two broader conclusions: 1) Projections of future tropical storm activity obtained by a direct tracking of tropical storms simulated by coarse-resolution climate models must be interpreted with caution. 2) Projections of future tropical cyclogenesis obtained from metrics of model behavior that are based solely on changes in long-term climatological fields and tuned to historical records must also be interpreted with caution.

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