skip to main content


The NSF Public Access Repository (NSF-PAR) system and access will be unavailable from 10:00 PM ET on Friday, December 8 until 2:00 AM ET on Saturday, December 9 due to maintenance. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Title: Idealized Simulations of the Tropical Climate and Variability in the Single Column Atmosphere Model (SCAM): Radiative‐Convective Equilibrium

To explore the interactions among column processes in the Community Atmosphere Model (CAM), the single‐column version of CAM (SCAM) is integrated for 1000 days in radiative‐convective equilibrium (RCE) with tropical values of boundary conditions, spanning a parameter or configuration space of model physics versions (v5 vs. v6), vertical resolution (standard and 60 levels), sea surface temperature (SST), and some interpretation‐driven experiments. The simulated time‐mean climate is reasonable, near observations and RCE of a cyclic cloud‐resolving model. Updraft detrainment in the deep convection scheme produces distinctive grid‐scale structures in humidity and cloud, which also interact with radiative transfer processes. These grid artifacts average out in multi‐column RCE results reported elsewhere, illustrating the nuts‐and‐bolts interpretability that SCAM adds to the hierarchy of model configurations. Multi‐day oscillations of precipitation arise from descent of warm convection‐capping layers starting near the tropopause, eventually reset by a burst of convective deepening. Experiments reveal how these oscillations depend critically on an internal parameter that controls the number of neutral buoyancy levels allowed for determining cloud top and computing dilute convective available potential energy in the deep convection scheme, and merely modified a little by disabling cloud‐base radiation (heating of cloud base). This strong dependence of transient behavior in 1D on this parameter will be tested in the second part of this work, in which SCAM is coupled to a parameterized dynamics of two‐dimensional, linearized gravity wave, and in the 3D simulations in future study.

more » « less
Award ID(s):
1839741 1830729
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  
Publisher / Repository:
DOI PREFIX: 10.1029
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. A two‐column radiative–convective equilibrium (RCE) model is used to study the depth of convection that develops in the subsiding branch of a Walker‐like overturning circulation. The model numerically solves for two‐dimensional non‐rotating hydrostatic flow, which is damped by momentum diffusion in the boundary layer and model interior, and by convective momentum transport. Convection, clouds and radiative transfer are parametrized, and the convection scheme does not include explicit freezing or melting.

    While integrating the model towards local RCE, the level of neutral buoyancy (LNB) fluctuates between mid‐ and high levels. Evaporation of detrained moisture at the LNB locally cools the environment, so that the final RCE state has a stable layer at mid‐levels (550 hPa ≈ 50–100 hPa below 0 °C), which is unrelated to melting of ice. Preferred detrainment at mid‐ and high levels leaves the middle‐to‐upper troposphere relatively dry.

    A circulation is introduced by incrementally lowering the sea‐surface temperature in one column, which collapses convection: first to a congestus mode with tops near 550 hPa, below the dry layer created in RCE; then to congestus with tops near 650 hPa; and finally to shallow cumulus with tops near 850 hPa. Critical to stabilizing congestus near 650 hPa is large radiative cooling near moist cumulus tops under a dry upper atmosphere. This congestus mode is very sensitive, and only develops when horizontal temperature gradients created by evaporative and radiative cooling can persist against the work of gravity waves. This only happens in runs with ample momentum diffusion, which are those with convective momentum transport or large domains.

    Compared to the shallow mode, the congestus mode produces a deep moist layer and more precipitation. This reduces radiative cooling in the cloud layer and enhances stability near the cloud base, which weakens the circulation, and leads to less precipitation over the warm ocean.

    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    In a modeled environment of rotating radiative‐convective equilibrium (RCE), convective self‐aggregation may take the form of spontaneous tropical cyclogenesis. We investigate the processes leading to tropical cyclogenesis in idealized simulations with a three‐dimensional cloud‐permitting model configured in rotating RCE, in which the background planetary vorticity is varied acrossf‐plane cases to represent a range of deep tropical and near‐equatorial environments. Convection is initialized randomly in an otherwise homogeneous environment, with no background wind, precursor disturbance, or other synoptic‐scale forcing. We examine the dynamic and thermodynamic evolution of cyclogenesis in these experiments and compare the physical mechanisms to current theories. All simulations with planetary vorticity corresponding to latitudes from 10°–20° generate intense tropical cyclones, with maximum wind speeds of 80 m s−1or above. Time to genesis varies widely, even within a five‐member ensemble of 20° simulations, indicating large stochastic variability. Shared across the 10°–20° group is the emergence of a midlevel vortex in the days leading to genesis, which has dynamic and thermodynamic implications on its environment that facilitate the spin‐up of a low‐level vortex. Tropical cyclogenesis is possible in this model at values of Coriolis parameter as low as that representative of 1°. In these experiments, convection self‐aggregates into a quasicircular cluster, which then begins to rotate and gradually strengthen into a tropical storm, aided by strong near‐surface inflow that is already established days prior. Other experiments at these lower Coriolis parameters instead self‐aggregate into a nonrotating elongated band and fail to undergo cyclogenesis over the 100‐day simulation.

    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    Characteristics of, and fundamental differences between, the radiative‐convective equilibrium (RCE) climate states following the Radiative‐Convective Equilibrium Model Intercomparison Project (RCEMIP) protocols in the Community Atmosphere Model version 5 (CAM5) and version 6 (CAM6) are presented. This paper explores the characteristics of clouds, moisture, precipitation and circulation in the RCE state, as well as the tropical response to surface warming, in CAM5 and CAM6 with different parameterizations. Overall, CAM5 simulates higher precipitation rates that result in larger global average precipitation, despite lower outgoing longwave radiation compared to CAM6. Differences in the structure of clouds, particularly the amount and vertical location of cloud liquid, exist between the CAM versions and can, in part, be related to distinct representations of shallow convection and boundary layer processes. Both CAM5 and CAM6 simulate similar peaks in cloud fraction, relative humidity, and cloud ice, linked to the usage of a similar deep convection parameterization. These anvil clouds rise and decrease in extent in response to surface warming. More generally, extreme precipitation, aggregation of convection, and climate sensitivity increase with warming in both CAM5 and CAM6. This analysis provides a benchmark for future studies that explore clouds, convection, and climate in CAM with the RCEMIP protocols now available in the Community Earth System Model. These results are discussed within the context of realistic climate simulations using CAM5 and CAM6, highlighting the usefulness of a hierarchical modeling approach to understanding model and parameterization sensitivities to inform model development efforts.

    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    The Radiative‐Convective Equilibrium Model Intercomparison Project (RCEMIP) is an intercomparison of multiple types of numerical models configured in radiative‐convective equilibrium (RCE). RCE is an idealization of the tropical atmosphere that has long been used to study basic questions in climate science. Here, we employ RCE to investigate the role that clouds and convective activity play in determining cloud feedbacks, climate sensitivity, the state of convective aggregation, and the equilibrium climate. RCEMIP is unique among intercomparisons in its inclusion of a wide range of model types, including atmospheric general circulation models (GCMs), single column models (SCMs), cloud‐resolving models (CRMs), large eddy simulations (LES), and global cloud‐resolving models (GCRMs). The first results are presented from the RCEMIP ensemble of more than 30 models. While there are large differences across the RCEMIP ensemble in the representation of mean profiles of temperature, humidity, and cloudiness, in a majority of models anvil clouds rise, warm, and decrease in area coverage in response to an increase in sea surface temperature (SST). Nearly all models exhibit self‐aggregation in large domains and agree that self‐aggregation acts to dry and warm the troposphere, reduce high cloudiness, and increase cooling to space. The degree of self‐aggregation exhibits no clear tendency with warming. There is a wide range of climate sensitivities, but models with parameterized convection tend to have lower climate sensitivities than models with explicit convection. In models with parameterized convection, aggregated simulations have lower climate sensitivities than unaggregated simulations.

    more » « less
  5. Abstract

    A framework is introduced to investigate the indirect effect of aerosol loading on tropical deep convection using three-dimensional limited-domain idealized cloud-system-resolving model simulations coupled with large-scale dynamics over fixed sea surface temperature. The large-scale circulation is parameterized using the spectral weak temperature gradient (WTG) approximation that utilizes the dominant balance between adiabatic cooling and diabatic heating in the tropics. The aerosol loading effect is examined by varying the number of cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) available to form cloud droplets in the two-moment bulk microphysics scheme over a wide range of environments from 30 to 5000 cm−3. The radiative heating is held at a constant prescribed rate in order to isolate the microphysical effects. Analyses are performed over the period after equilibrium is achieved between convection and the large-scale environment. Mean precipitation is found to decrease modestly and monotonically when the aerosol number concentration increases as convection gets weaker, despite the increase in cloud liquid water in the warm-rain region and ice crystals aloft. This reduction is traced down to the reduction in surface enthalpy fluxes as an energy source to the atmospheric column induced by the coupling of the large-scale motion, though the gross moist stability remains constant. Increasing CCN concentration leads to 1) a cooler free troposphere because of a reduction in the diabatic heating and 2) a warmer boundary layer because of suppressed evaporative cooling. This dipole temperature structure is associated with anomalously descending large-scale vertical motion above the boundary layer and ascending motion at lower levels. Sensitivity tests suggest that changes in convection and mean precipitation are unlikely to be caused by the impact of aerosols on cloud droplets and microphysical properties but rather by accounting for the feedback from convective adjustment with the large-scale dynamics. Furthermore, a simple scaling argument is derived based on the vertically integrated moist static energy budget, which enables estimation of changes in precipitation given known changes in surfaces enthalpy fluxes and the constant gross moist stability. The impact on cloud hydrometeors and microphysical properties is also examined, and it is consistent with the macrophysical picture.

    more » « less