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Title: Quantifying the Impact of Vertical Resolution on the Representation of Marine Boundary Layer Physics for Global-Scale Models

While GCM horizontal resolution has received the majority of scale improvements in recent years, ample evidence suggests that a model’s vertical resolution exerts a strong control on its ability to accurately simulate the physics of the marine boundary layer. Here we show that, regardless of parameter tuning, the ability of a single-column model (SCM) to simulate the subtropical marine boundary layer improves when its vertical resolution is improved. We introduce a novel objective tuning technique to optimize the parameters of an SCM against profiles of temperature and moisture and their turbulent fluxes, horizontal winds, cloud water, and rainwater from large-eddy simulations (LES). We use this method to identify optimal parameters for simulating marine stratocumulus and shallow cumulus. The novel tuning method utilizes an objective performance metric that accounts for the uncertainty in the LES output, including the covariability between model variables. Optimization is performed independently for different vertical grid spacings and value of time step, ranging from coarse scales often used in current global models (120 m, 180 s) to fine scales often used in parameterization development and large-eddy simulations (10 m, 15 s). Uncertainty-weighted disagreement between the SCM and LES decreases by a factor of ∼5 when vertical grid spacing is improved from 120 to 10 m, with time step reductions being of secondary importance. Model performance is shown to converge at a vertical grid spacing of 20 m, with further refinements to 10 m leading to little further improvement.

Significance Statement

In successive generations of computer models that simulate Earth’s atmosphere, improvements have been mainly accomplished by reducing the horizontal sizes of discretized grid boxes, while the vertical grid spacing has seen comparatively lesser refinements. Here we advocate for additional attention to be paid to the number of vertical layers in these models, especially in the model layers closest to Earth’s surface where climatologically important marine stratocumulus and shallow cumulus clouds reside. Our experiments show that the ability of a one-dimensional model to represent physical processes important to these clouds is strongly dependent on the model’s vertical grid spacing.

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Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  
Publisher / Repository:
American Meteorological Society
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Monthly Weather Review
Medium: X Size: p. 2977-2992
["p. 2977-2992"]
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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