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Ming Zhao

Abstract

This study explores connections between process-level modeling of convection and global climate model (GCM) simulated clouds and cloud feedback to global warming through a set of perturbed-physics and perturbed sea surface temperature experiments. A bulk diagnostic approach is constructed, and a set of variables is derived and demonstrated to be useful in understanding the simulated relationship. In particular, a novel bulk quantity, the convective precipitation efficiency or equivalently the convective detrainment efficiency, is proposed as a simple measure of the aggregated properties of parameterized convection important to the GCM simulated clouds. As the convective precipitation efficiency increases in the perturbed-physics experiments, both liquid and ice water path decrease, with low and middle cloud fractions diminishing at a faster rate than high cloud fractions. This asymmetry results in a large sensitivity of top-of-atmosphere net cloud radiative forcing to changes in convective precipitation efficiency in this limited set of models.

For global warming experiments, intermodel variations in the response of cloud condensate, low cloud fraction, and total cloud radiative forcing are well explained by model variations in response to total precipitation (or detrainment) efficiency. Despite significant variability, all of the perturbed-physics models produce a sizable increase in precipitation efficiency to warming. A substantial fraction of the increase is due to its convective component, which depends on the parameterization of cumulus mixing and convective microphysical processes. The increase in convective precipitation efficiency and associated change in convective cloud height distribution owing to warming explains the increased cloud feedback and climate sensitivity in recently developed Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory GCMs. The results imply that a cumulus scheme using fractional removal of condensate for precipitation and inverse calculation of the entrainment rate tends to produce a lower climate sensitivity than a scheme using threshold removal for precipitation and the entrainment rate formulated inversely dependent on convective depth.

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Ming Zhao

Abstract

A 50-km-resolution GFDL AM4 well captures many aspects of observed atmospheric river (AR) characteristics including the probability density functions of AR length, width, length–width ratio, geographical location, and the magnitude and direction of AR mean vertically integrated vapor transport (IVT), with the model typically producing stronger and narrower ARs than the ERA-Interim results. Despite significant regional biases, the model well reproduces the observed spatial distribution of AR frequency and AR variability in response to large-scale circulation patterns such as El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO), the Northern and Southern Hemisphere annular modes (NAM and SAM), and the Pacific–North American (PNA) teleconnection pattern. For global warming scenarios, in contrast to most previous studies that show a large increase in AR length and width and therefore the occurrence frequency of AR conditions at a given location, this study shows only a modest increase in these quantities. However, the model produces a large increase in strong ARs with the frequency of category 3–5 ARs rising by roughly 100%–300% K−1. The global mean AR intensity as well as AR intensity percentiles at most percent ranks increases by 5%–8% K−1, roughly consistent with the Clausius–Clapeyron scaling of water vapor. Finally, the results point out the importance of AR IVT thresholds in quantifying modeled AR response to global warming.

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Spencer A. Hill, Yi Ming, and Ming Zhao

Abstract

How the globally uniform component of sea surface temperature (SST) warming influences rainfall in the African Sahel remains insufficiently studied, despite mean SST warming being among the most robustly simulated and theoretically grounded features of anthropogenic climate change. A prior study using the NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) AM2.1 atmospheric general circulation model (AGCM) demonstrated that uniform SST warming strengthens the prevailing northerly advection of dry Saharan air into the Sahel. The present study uses uniform SST warming simulations performed with 7 GFDL and 10 CMIP5 AGCMs to assess the robustness of this drying mechanism across models and uses observations to assess the physical credibility of the severe drying response in AM2.1. In all 17 AGCMs, mean SST warming enhances the free-tropospheric meridional moisture gradient spanning the Sahel and with it the Saharan dry-air advection. Energetically, this is partially balanced by anomalous subsidence, yielding decreased precipitation in 14 of the 17 models. Anomalous subsidence and precipitation are tightly linked across the GFDL models but not the CMIP5 models, precluding the use of this relationship as the start of a causal chain ending in an emergent observational constraint. For AM2.1, cloud–rainfall covariances generate radiative feedbacks on drying through the subsidence mechanism and through surface hydrology that are excessive compared to observations at the interannual time scale. These feedbacks also act in the equilibrium response to uniform warming, calling into question the Sahel’s severe drying response to warming in all coupled models using AM2.1.

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Ming Zhao and Philip H. Austin

Abstract

Episodic mixing and buoyancy-sorting (EMBS) models have been proposed as a physically more realistic alternative to entraining plume models of cumulus convection. Applying these models to shallow nonprecipitating clouds requires assumptions about the rate at which undilute subcloud air is eroded into the environment, an algorithm to calculate the eventual detrainment level of cloud–environment mixtures, and the probability distribution of mixing fraction. A diagnostic approach is used to examine the sensitivity of an EMBS model to these three closure assumptions, given equilibrium convection with known large-scale forcings taken from phase III of the Barbados Oceanographic Meteorological Experiment (BOMEX). The undilute eroding rate (UER) is retrieved and found to decrease exponentially with height above cloud base, suggesting a strong modulation by the cloud size distribution. The EMBS model is also used to calculate convective transport by individual clouds of varying thickness. No single cloud from this ensemble can balance the large-scale BOMEX forcing; the observed equilibrium requires a population of clouds with a cloud size distribution that is maximum for small clouds and decreases monotonically with cloud size.

The EMBS model depends sensitively on the assumptions governing the detrainment of positively buoyant mixtures. In particular, given the requirement that positively buoyant mixtures detrain at their neutral buoyancy level, there is no positive definite undilute eroding rate that is consistent with the BOMEX forcing. The model is less sensitive to the assumed distribution of cloud–environment mixtures, given a multiple mixing treatment of positively buoyant parcels and detrainment at the unsaturated neutral buoyancy level.

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Ming Zhao and Isaac M. Held

Abstract

A tropical cyclone–permitting global atmospheric model is used to explore the hurricane frequency response to sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies generated by coupled models for the late-twenty-first century. Results are presented for SST anomalies averaged over 18 models as well as from 8 individual models. For each basin, there exists large intermodel spread in the magnitude and even the sign of the frequency response among the different SST projections. These sizable variations in response are explored to understand features of SST distributions that are important for the basin-wide hurricane responses. In the North Atlantic, the eastern Pacific, and the southern Indian basins, most (72%–86%) of the intermodel variance in storm frequency response can be explained by a simple relative SST index defined as a basin’s storm development region SST minus the tropical mean SST. The explained variance is significantly lower in the South Pacific (48%) and much lower in the western Pacific basin (27%). Several atmospheric parameters are utilized to probe changes in tropical atmospheric circulation and thermodynamical properties relevant to storm genesis in the model. While all present strong correlation to storm response in some basins, a parameter-measuring tropospheric convective mass flux stands out as skillful in explaining the simulated differences for all basins. Globally, in addition to a modest reduction of total storm frequency, the simulations exhibit a small, but robust eastward and poleward migration of genesis frequency in both the North Pacific and the North Atlantic Oceans. This eastward migration of storms can also be explained by changes in convection.

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Ming Zhao and Philip H. Austin

Abstract

This paper is the second in a two-part series in which life cycles of six numerically simulated shallow cumulus clouds are systematically examined. The six clouds, selected from a single realization of a large-eddy simulation, grow as a series of pulses/thermals detached from the subcloud layer. All six clouds exhibit a coherent vortical circulation and a low buoyancy, low velocity trailing wake. The ascending cloud top (ACT), which contains this vortical circulation, is associated with a dynamic perturbation pressure field with high pressure located at the ascending frontal cap and low pressure below and on the downshear side of the maximum updrafts. Examination of the thermodynamic and kinematic structure, together with passive tracer experiments, suggests that this vortical circulation is primarily responsible for mixing between cloud and environment. As the cloud ACTs rise through the sheared environment, the low pressure, vortical circulation, and mixing are all strongly enhanced on the downshear side and weakened on the upshear side. Collapse of the ACT also occurs on the downshear side, with subsequent thermals ascending on the upshear side of their predecessors. The coherent core structure is maintained throughout the ACT ascent; mixing begins to gradually dilute the ACT core only in the upper half of the cloud's depth. The characteristic kinematic and dynamic structure of these simulated ACTs, together with their mixing behavior, corresponds closely to that of shedding thermals. These shallow simulated clouds, however, reach a maximum height of only about four ACT diameters so that ACT mixing differs from predictions of self-similar laboratory thermals.

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Isaac M. Held and Ming Zhao

Abstract

The effects on tropical cyclone statistics of doubling CO2, with fixed sea surface temperatures (SSTs), are compared to the effects of a 2-K increase in SST, with fixed CO2, using a 50-km resolution global atmospheric model. Confirming earlier results of Yoshimura and Sugi, a significant fraction of the reduction in globally averaged tropical storm frequency seen in simulations in which both SST and CO2 are increased can be thought of as the effect of the CO2 increase with fixed SSTs. Globally, the model produces a decrease in tropical cyclone frequency of about 10% due to doubling of CO2 and an additional 10% for a 2-K increase in SST, resulting in roughly a 20% reduction when both effects are present. The relative contribution of the CO2 effect to the total reduction is larger in the Northern than in the Southern Hemisphere. The average intensity of storms increases in the model with increasing SST, but intensity remains roughly unchanged, or decreases slightly, with the increase in CO2 alone. As a result, when considering the frequency of more intense cyclones, the intensity increase tends to compensate for the reduced total cyclone numbers for the SST increase in isolation, but not for the CO2 increase in isolation. Changes in genesis in these experiments roughly follow changes in mean vertical motion, reflecting changes in convective mass fluxes. Discussion of one possible perspective on how changes in the convective mass flux might alter genesis rates is provided.

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Ming-Dah Chou and Wenzhong Zhao

Abstract

The Tropical Ocean and Global Atmosphere Coupled Ocean–Atmosphere Response Experiment (TOGA COARE) radiation measurements in the western Pacific warm pool are used to estimate surface solar radiation budgets and to validate radiation model calculations. Clear-sky fluxes are identified from the measurements of direct and diffuse fluxes at the ARM (Atmospheric Radiation Measurements) site of Kavieng by simultaneously imposing conditions that 1) the direct downward solar flux is a maximum, 2) the diffuse downward solar flux is a minimum, and 3) the total flux varies smoothly with time. Averaged over the four TOGA COARE months, the clear-sky downward solar flux at Kavieng is 308 W m−2, with a range of 302–317 W m−2. The estimated clear-sky solar flux, together with the temperature and humidity radiosondings, are then used to validate radiation model calculations. Using an inferred aerosol optical thickness of 0.12, results show that clear-sky surface solar fluxes can be reliably computed from a radiation model. The effect of clouds on surface solar radiation is found to be large. Averaged over the four TOGA COARE months and the seven radiation stations, the surface cloud radiative forcing is 99 W m−2 with a range of 79–112 W m−2. This result of the mean cloud radiative forcing is in agreement with other current studies.

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Isaac M. Held and Ming Zhao

Abstract

Rotating radiative–convective equilibrium, using the column physics and resolution of GCMs, is proposed as a useful framework for studying the tropical storm–like vortices produced by global models. These equilibria are illustrated using the column physics and dynamics of a version of the GFDL Atmospheric Model 2 (AM2) at resolutions of 220, 110, and 55 km in a large 2 × 104 km square horizontally homogeneous domain with fixed sea surface temperature and uniform Coriolis parameter. The large domain allows a number of tropical storms to exist simultaneously. Once equilibrium is attained, storms often persist for hundreds of days. The number of storms decreases as sea surface temperatures increase, while the average intensity increases. As the background rotation is decreased, the number of storms also decreases. At these resolutions and with this parameterization of convection, a dense collection of tropical storms is always the end state of moist convection in the cases examined.

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Ming Zhao and Isaac M. Held

Abstract

A statistical intensity adjustment is utilized to extract information from tropical cyclone simulations in a 50-km-resolution global model. A simple adjustment based on the modeled and observed probability distribution of storm lifetime maximum wind speed allows the model to capture the differences between observed intensity distributions in active/inactive year composites from the 1981–2008 period in the North Atlantic. This intensity adjustment is then used to examine the atmospheric model’s responses to different sea surface temperature anomalies generated by coupled models for the late twenty-first century. In the North Atlantic all simulations produce a reduction in the total number of cyclones, but with large intermodel spread in the magnitude of the reduction. The intensity response is positively correlated with changes in frequency across the ensemble. However, there is, on average, an increase in intensity in these simulations despite the mean reduction in frequency. The authors argue that it is useful to decompose these intensity changes into two parts: an increase in intensity that is intrinsic to the climate change experiments and a change in intensity positively correlated with frequency, just as in the active/inactive historical composites. By isolating the intrinsic component, which is relatively independent of the details of the SST warming pattern, an increase is found in storm-lifetime maximum winds of 5–10 m s−1 for storms with intensities of 30–60 m s−1, by the end of the twenty-first century. The effects of change in frequency, which are dependent on the details of the spatial structure of the warming, must then be superimposed on this intrinsic change.

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