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Jia Wang and Minghua Zhang

Abstract

Data assimilation (DA) at mesoscales is important for severe weather forecasts, yet the techniques of data assimilation at this scale remain a challenge. This study introduces dynamical constraints in the Gridpoint Statistical Interpolation (GSI) three-dimensional ensemble variational (3D-EnVar) data assimilation algorithm to enable the use of high-resolution surface observations of precipitation to improve atmospheric analysis at mesoscales. The constraints use the conservations of mass and moisture. Mass constraint suppresses the unphysical high-frequency oscillation, while moisture conservation constrains the atmospheric states to conform with the observed high-resolution precipitation. We show that the constrained data assimilation (CDA) algorithm significantly reduced the spurious residuals of the mass and moisture budgets compared to the original data assimilation (ODA). A case study is presented for a squall line over the Southern Great Plains on 20 May 2011 during Midlatitude Continental Convective Clouds Experiment (MC3E) of the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) program by using ODA or CDA analysis as initial condition of forecasts. The state variables, and the location and intensity of the squall line are better simulated in the CDA experiment. Results show how surface observation of precipitation can be used to improve atmospheric analysis through data assimilation by using the dynamical constraints of mass and moisture conservations.

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Minghua Zhang and Qingcun Zeng

Abstract

The evolution processes of small disturbances in an arbitrary basic flow can be expressed as a combination of spectral functions of the discrete spectra and continuous spectrum of a model that bear distinctly different evolutionary characteristics. Using the linearized barotropic quasigeostrophic vorticity model, this study formulates the discrete spectral solution into a form that is consistent with traditional normal modes in time and space, and the continuous spectral solution into a form with the continuum covering the range between minimum and maximum zonal angular velocities. An estimation of the bounds of the spectral points is derived to complement those derived from integral constraints. A theorem is given to describe the possible number of discrete spectral points away from the continuum.

The theoretical analysis is then used to aid the numerical identification and interpretation of discrete and continuous spectra of the model with realistic atmospheric basic zonal flows. It is shown that neutral spectral points correspond to either ultralong waves with global meridional coverage or synoptic-scale waves in low latitudes. The unstable spectral points correspond to localized waves with developing or decaying timescales longer than 2 weeks. Structures of spectral function of the continuum are also presented and discussed. They are shown to restrict on one side to the critical latitude and on the other side to the jet core under certain conditions.

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Yunying Li and Minghua Zhang

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Cumulus (Cu) from shallow convection is one of the dominant cloud types over the Tibetan Plateau (TP) in the summer according to CloudSatCALIPSO observations. Its thermodynamic effects on the atmospheric environment and impacts on the large-scale atmospheric circulation are studied in this paper using the Community Atmospheric Model, version 5.3 (CAM5.3). It is found that the model can reasonably simulate the unique distribution of diabatic heating and Cu over the TP. Shallow convection provides the dominant diabatic heating and drying to the lower and middle atmosphere over the TP. A sensitivity experiment indicates that without Cu over the TP, large-scale condensation and stratiform clouds would increase dramatically, which induces enhanced low-level wind and moisture convergence toward the TP, resulting in significantly enhanced monsoon circulation with remote impact on the areas far beyond the TP. Cu therefore acts as a safety valve to modulate the atmospheric environment that prevents the formation of superclusters of stratiform clouds and precipitation over the TP.

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Minghua Zhang and Christopher Bretherton

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This study investigates the physical mechanism of low cloud feedback in the Community Atmospheric Model, version 3 (CAM3) through idealized single-column model (SCM) experiments over the subtropical eastern oceans. Negative cloud feedback is simulated from stratus and stratocumulus that is consistent with previous diagnostics of cloud feedbacks in CAM3 and its predecessor versions. The feedback occurs through the interaction of a suite of parameterized processes rather than from any single process. It is caused by the larger amount of in-cloud liquid water in stratus clouds from convective sources, and longer lifetimes of these clouds in a warmer climate through their interaction with boundary layer turbulence. Thermodynamic effects are found to dominate the negative cloud feedback in the model. The dynamic effect of weaker subsidence in a warmer climate also contributes to the negative cloud feedback, but with about one-quarter of the magnitude of the thermodynamic effect, owing to increased low-level convection in a warmer climate.

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Hua Song and Minghua Zhang

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Both the ECMWF and the NCEP–NCAR reanalyses show a strengthening of the atmospheric Hadley circulation in boreal winter over the last 50 years, but the intensification is much stronger in the ECMWF than in the NCEP–NCAR reanalysis. This study focuses on the difference of these trends in the two reanalyses. It is shown that trends in the Hadley circulation in the two reanalyses differ mainly over the tropical western Pacific. This difference is found to be consistent with respective trends of the atmospheric transport of moist static energy, longwave cloud radiative forcing, and upper-level clouds in the two reanalyses. Two independent datasets of upper-level cloud cover and sea level pressure from ship-based measurements are then used to evaluate the reanalyses over the tropical western Pacific. They are found to be more consistent with the trends in the NCEP–NCAR reanalysis than those in the ECMWF reanalysis. The results suggest a weakening of the vertical motion associated with the Hadley circulation in the tropical western Pacific.

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Yunying Li and Minghua Zhang

Abstract

Cumulus (Cu) can transport heat and water vapor from the boundary layer to the free atmosphere, leading to the redistribution of heat and moist energy in the lower atmosphere. This paper uses the fine-resolution CloudSat–CALIPSO product to characterize Cu over the Tibetan Plateau (TP). It is found that Cu is one of the dominant cloud types over the TP in the northern summer. The Cu event frequency, defined as Cu occurring within 50-km segments, is 54% over the TP in the summer, which is much larger over the TP than in its surrounding regions. The surface wind vector converging at the central TP and the topographic forcing provide the necessary moisture and dynamical lifting of convection over the TP. The structure of the atmospheric moist static energy shows that the thermodynamical environment over the northern TP can be characterized as having weak instability, a shallow layer of instability, and lower altitudes for the level of free convection. The diurnal variation of Cu with frequency peaks during the daytime confirms the surface thermodynamic control on Cu formation over the TP. This study offers insights into how surface heat is transported to the free troposphere over the TP and provides an observational test of climate models in simulating shallow convection over the TP.

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Minghua Zhang and Marvin A. Geller

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The growth of waves and the generation of potential energy in wave-CISK require unstable waves to tilt with height oppositely to their direction of propagation. This makes the structures and instability properties of these waves very sensitive to the presence of vertical shear in the basic flow. Equatorial Kelvin and Rossby-gravity waves have opposite phase tilt with height to what they have in the stratosphere, and their growth is selectively favored by basic flows with westward vertical shear and eastward vertical shear, respectively. Similar calculations are also made for gravity waves and Rossby waves. It is shown that eastward vertical shear of the basic flow promotes CISK for westward propagating Rossby-gravity, Rossby, and gravity waves and suppresses CISK for eastward propagating Kelvin and gravity waves, while westward shear of the basic flow has the reverse effects.

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He Zhang, Minghua Zhang, and Qing-cun Zeng

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The dynamical core of the Institute of Atmospheric Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences Atmospheric General Circulation Model (IAP AGCM) and the Eulerian spectral transform dynamical core of the Community Atmosphere Model, version 3.1 (CAM3.1), developed at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) are used to study the sensitivity of simulated climate. The authors report that when the dynamical cores are used with the same CAM3.1 physical parameterizations of comparable resolutions, the model with the IAP dynamical core simulated a colder troposphere than that from the CAM3.1 core, reducing the CAM3.1 warm bias in the tropical and midlatitude troposphere. However, when the two dynamical cores are used in the idealized Held–Suarez tests without moisture physics, the IAP AGCM core simulated a warmer troposphere than that in CAM3.1. The causes of the differences in the full models and in the dry models are then investigated.

The authors show that the IAP dynamical core simulated weaker eddies in both the full physics and the dry models than those in the CAM due to different numerical approximations. In the dry IAP model, the weaker eddies cause smaller heat loss from poleward dynamical transport and thus warmer troposphere in the tropics and midlatitudes. When moist physics is included, however, weaker eddies also lead to weaker transport of water vapor and reduction of high clouds in the IAP model, which then causes a colder troposphere due to reduced greenhouse warming of these clouds. These results show how interactive physical processes can change the effect of a dynamical core on climate simulations between two models.

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Kuan-Man Xu, Anning Cheng, and Minghua Zhang

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This study investigates the physical mechanisms of the low cloud feedback through cloud-resolving simulations of cloud-radiative equilibrium response to an increase in sea surface temperature (SST). Six pairs of perturbed and control simulations are performed to represent different regimes of low clouds in the subtropical region by specifying SST differences (ΔSST) in the range of 4 and 14 K between the warm tropical and cool subtropical regions. The SST is uniformly increased by 2 K in the perturbed set of simulations. Equilibrium states are characterized by cumulus and stratocumulus cloud regimes with variable thicknesses and vertical extents for the range of specified ΔSSTs, with the perturbed set of simulations having higher cloud bases and tops and larger geometric thicknesses. The cloud feedback effect is negative for this ΔSST range (−0.68 to −5.22 W m−2 K−1) while the clear-sky feedback effect is mostly negative (−1.45 to 0.35 W m−2 K−1). The clear-sky feedback effect contributes greatly to the climate sensitivity parameter for the cumulus cloud regime whereas the cloud feedback effect dominates for the stratocumulus regime. The increase of liquid water path (LWP) and cloud optical depth is related to the increase of cloud thickness and liquid water content with SST. The rates of change in surface latent heat flux are much higher than those of saturation water vapor pressure in the cumulus simulations. The increase in surface latent heat flux is the primary mechanism for the large change of cloud physical properties with +2 K SST, which leads to the negative cloud feedback effects. The changes in cloud fraction also contribute to the negative cloud feedback effects in the cumulus regime. Comparison of these results with prior modeling studies is also discussed.

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Wuyin Lin, Minghua Zhang, and Norman G. Loeb

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Marine boundary layer (MBL) clouds can significantly regulate the sensitivity of climate models, yet they are currently poorly simulated. This study aims to characterize the seasonal variations of physical properties of these clouds and their associated processes by using multisatellite data. Measurements from several independent satellite datasets [International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (ISCCP), Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System–Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (CERES–MODIS), Geoscience Laser Altimeter System (GLAS), and Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation (CALIPSO)], in conjunction with balloon soundings from the mobile facility of the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) program at Point Reyes and reanalysis products, are used to characterize the seasonal variations of MBL cloud-top and cloud-base heights, cloud thickness, the degree of decoupling between clouds and MBL, and inversion strength off the California coast.

The main results from this study are as follows: (i) MBL clouds over the northeast subtropical Pacific in the summer are more prevalent and associated with a larger in-cloud water path than in winter. The cloud-top and cloud-base heights are lower in the summer than in the winter. (ii) Although the lower-tropospheric stability of the atmosphere is higher in the summer, the MBL inversion strength is only weakly stronger in the summer because of a negative feedback from the cloud-top altitude. Summertime MBL clouds are more homogeneous and are associated with lower surface latent heat flux than those in the winter. (iii) Seasonal variations of low-cloud properties from summer to winter resemble the downstream stratocumulus-to-cumulus transition of MBL clouds in terms of MBL depth, cloud-top and cloud-base heights, inversion strength, and spatial homogeneity. The “deepening–warming” mechanism of Bretherton and Wyant for the stratocumulus-to-trade-cumulus transition downstream of the cold eastern ocean can also explain the seasonal variation of low clouds from the summer to the winter, except that warming of the sea surface temperature needs to be taken as relative to the free-tropospheric air temperature, which occurs in the winter. The observed variation of low clouds from summer to winter is attributed to the much larger seasonal cooling of the free-tropospheric air temperature than that of the sea surface temperature.

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