The Response of a Spectral General Circulation Model to Refinements in Radiative Processes

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  • 1 National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO 80307
  • | 2 Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, Miami, FL 33149
  • | 3 Institute for Geophysics and Planetary Physics, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM 87545
  • | 4 National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder. CO 80307
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Abstract

We present here results and analyses of a series of numerical experiments performed with a spectral general circulation model (GCM). The purpose of the GCM experiments is to examine the role of radiation/cloud processes in the general circulation of the troposphere and stratosphere. The experiments were primarily motivated by the significant improvements in the GCM zonal mean simulation as refinements were made in the model treatment of clear-sky radiation and cloud-radiative interactions. The GCM with the improved cloud/radiation model is able to reproduce many observed features, such as: a clear separation between the wintertime tropospheric jet and the polar night jet; winter polar stratospheric temperatures of about 200 K; interhemispheric and seasonal asymmetries in the zonal winds.

In a set of sensitivity experiments, we have stripped the cloud/radiation model of its improvements, the result being a significant degradation of the zonal mean simulations by the GCM. Through these experiments we have been able to identify the processes that are responsible for the improved GCM simulations: (i) careful treatment of the upper boundary condition for O3 solar heating; (ii) temperature dependence of longwave cooling by CO2 15 μm bands., (iii) vertical distribution of H2O that minimizes the lower stratospheric H2O longwave cooling; (iv) dependence of cirrus emissivity on cloud liquid water content.

Comparison of the GCM simulations, with and without the cloud/radiation improvements, reveals the nature and magnitude of the following radiative-dynamical interactions: (i) the temperature decrease (due to errors in radiative heating) within the winter polar stratosphere is much larger than can be accounted for by purely radiative adjustment; (ii) the role of dynamics in maintaining the winter polar stratosphere thermal structure is greatly diminished in the GCM with the degraded treatment of radiation; (iii) the radiative and radiative-dynamical response times of the atmosphere vary from periods of less than two weeks in the lower troposphere to roughly three months in the polar lower stratosphere; (iv) within the stratosphere, the radiative response times vary significantly with temperature, with the winter polar values larger than the summer polar values by as much as a factor of 2.5.

Cirrus clouds, if their emissivities are arbitrarily prescribed to be black, unrealistically enhance the radiative cooling of the polar troposphere above ∼8 km. This results in a meridional temperature gradient much stronger than that which is observed. We employ a more realistic parameterization that accounts for the non-blackness of cirrus, and we describe the resulting improvements in the model simulation of zonal winds, temperatures, and radiation budget.

Abstract

We present here results and analyses of a series of numerical experiments performed with a spectral general circulation model (GCM). The purpose of the GCM experiments is to examine the role of radiation/cloud processes in the general circulation of the troposphere and stratosphere. The experiments were primarily motivated by the significant improvements in the GCM zonal mean simulation as refinements were made in the model treatment of clear-sky radiation and cloud-radiative interactions. The GCM with the improved cloud/radiation model is able to reproduce many observed features, such as: a clear separation between the wintertime tropospheric jet and the polar night jet; winter polar stratospheric temperatures of about 200 K; interhemispheric and seasonal asymmetries in the zonal winds.

In a set of sensitivity experiments, we have stripped the cloud/radiation model of its improvements, the result being a significant degradation of the zonal mean simulations by the GCM. Through these experiments we have been able to identify the processes that are responsible for the improved GCM simulations: (i) careful treatment of the upper boundary condition for O3 solar heating; (ii) temperature dependence of longwave cooling by CO2 15 μm bands., (iii) vertical distribution of H2O that minimizes the lower stratospheric H2O longwave cooling; (iv) dependence of cirrus emissivity on cloud liquid water content.

Comparison of the GCM simulations, with and without the cloud/radiation improvements, reveals the nature and magnitude of the following radiative-dynamical interactions: (i) the temperature decrease (due to errors in radiative heating) within the winter polar stratosphere is much larger than can be accounted for by purely radiative adjustment; (ii) the role of dynamics in maintaining the winter polar stratosphere thermal structure is greatly diminished in the GCM with the degraded treatment of radiation; (iii) the radiative and radiative-dynamical response times of the atmosphere vary from periods of less than two weeks in the lower troposphere to roughly three months in the polar lower stratosphere; (iv) within the stratosphere, the radiative response times vary significantly with temperature, with the winter polar values larger than the summer polar values by as much as a factor of 2.5.

Cirrus clouds, if their emissivities are arbitrarily prescribed to be black, unrealistically enhance the radiative cooling of the polar troposphere above ∼8 km. This results in a meridional temperature gradient much stronger than that which is observed. We employ a more realistic parameterization that accounts for the non-blackness of cirrus, and we describe the resulting improvements in the model simulation of zonal winds, temperatures, and radiation budget.

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