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Salil Mahajan
Qi Tang
Noel D. Keen
Jean-Christophe Golaz
, and
Luke P. van Roekel


We evaluate the simulated teleconnection of El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) to winter season precipitation extremes over the United States in a long (98 years) 1950 control high-resolution version (HR; 25-km nominal atmosphere model horizontal resolution) of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Energy Exascale Earth System Model version 1 (E3SMv1). The model bias and spatial pattern of ENSO teleconnections to mean and extreme precipitation in HR overall are similar to the low-resolution model’s (LR; 110 km) historical simulation (four-member ensemble, 1925–59). However, over the southeastern United States (SE-U.S.), HR produces stronger El Niño–associated extremes, reducing LR’s model bias. Both LR and HR produce weaker than observed increase in storm track activity during El Niño events there, but HR improves the ENSO-associated variability of moisture transport over SE-U.S. During El Niño, stronger vertical velocities in HR produce stronger large-scale precipitation, causing larger latent heating of the troposphere that pulls in more moisture from the Gulf of Mexico into the SE-U.S. This positive feedback also contributes to the stronger mean and extreme precipitation response in HR. Over the Pacific Northwest, LR’s bias of stronger than observed La Niña associated extremes is amplified in HR. Both models simulate stronger than observed moisture transport from the Pacific Ocean into the region during La Niña years. The amplified HR bias there is due to stronger orographically driven vertical updrafts that create stronger large-scale precipitation, despite weaker La Niña–induced storm track activity.

Significance Statement

New high-resolution Earth system models (ESMs) solve mathematical equations of fluid flow at much smaller spatial scales than prevalent ESMs, and thus are prohibitively expensive to compute. However, they can be useful for simulating accurate details of regional climate extremes that are driven by naturally occurring climate oscillations like El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Here, we evaluate the simulation of ENSO-driven precipitation extremes over the United States in the high-resolution version of the U.S. Department of Energy’s new Energy Exascale Earth System Model version 1. We find that the high-resolution model improves upon its low-resolution counterpart over the southeastern United States by producing a better transport of moisture into the region from the Gulf of Mexico during El Niño. Over the U.S. Pacific Northwest, the high-resolution model simulates the atmospheric flow in more detail over the complex mountainous terrain. However, it also brings in more moisture from the Pacific Ocean just like the low-resolution model. This causes it to produce precipitation extremes during La Niña years there that are stronger than that observed in the real world.

Open access