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  1. Convective parameterization is the long-lasting bottleneck of global climate modelling and one of the most difficult problems in atmospheric sciences. Uncertainty in convective parameterization is the leading cause of the widespread climate sensitivity in IPCC global warming projections. This paper reviews the observations and parameterizations of atmospheric convection with emphasis on the cloud structure, bulk effects, and closure assumption. The representative state-of-the-art convection schemes are presented, including the ECMWF convection scheme, the Grell scheme used in NCEP model and WRF model, the Zhang-MacFarlane scheme used in NCAR and DOE models, and parameterizations of shallow moist convection. The observed convection has self-suppression mechanisms caused by entrainment in convective updrafts, surface cold pool generated by unsaturated convective downdrafts, and warm and dry lower troposphere created by mesoscale downdrafts. The post-convection environment is often characterized by “diamond sounding” suggesting an over-stabilization rather than barely returning to neutral state. Then the pre-convection environment is characterized by slow moistening of lower troposphere triggered by surface moisture convergence and other mechanisms. The over-stabilization and slow moistening make the convection events episodic and decouple the middle/upper troposphere from the boundary layer, making the state-type quasi-equilibrium hypothesis invalid. Right now, unsaturated convective downdrafts and especially mesoscale downdrafts aremore »missing in most convection schemes, while some schemes are using undiluted convective updrafts, all of which favour easily turned-on convection linked to double-ITCZ (inter-tropical convergence zone), overly weak MJO (Madden-Julian Oscillation) and precocious diurnal precipitation maximum. We propose a new strategy for convection scheme development using reanalysis-driven model experiments such as the assimilation runs in weather prediction centres and the decadal prediction runs in climate modelling centres, aided by satellite simulators evaluating key characteristics such as the lifecycle of convective cloud-top distribution and stratiform precipitation fraction.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 4, 2023
  2. Abstract This study examines the free-tropospheric quasi-equilibrium at different global climate model (GCM) resolutions using the simulation of tropical convection by a cloud-resolving model during the Tropical Western Pacific International Cloud Experiment. The simulated dynamic and thermodynamic fields within the model domain are averaged over subdomains of different sizes equivalent to different GCM resolutions. These coarse-grained fields are then used to compute CAPE and its change with time, and their relationships with simulated convection. Results show that CAPE change with time is controlled predominantly by variations of thermodynamic properties in the planetary boundary layer for all subdomain sizes ranging from 64 to 4 km. Lag correlation analysis shows that CAPE generation by the free-tropospheric dynamical advection (dCAPE ls ) leads convective precipitation but is in phase with convective mass flux at 600 mb and 500 mb vertical velocity for all subdomain sizes. However, the correlation coefficients and regression slopes decrease as the subdomain size decreases for subdomain sizes smaller than 16 km. This is probably due to increased randomness of convection and more scale-dependence of the relationships when the subdomain size reaches the grey zone. By examining the sensitivity of the relationships of convection with dCAPE ls to temporal scales in different subdomain size,more »it shows that the quasi-equilibrium between dCAPE ls and convection holds well for timescales of 30 min or longer at all subdomain sizes. These results suggest that the free tropospheric quasi-equilibrium assumption may still be useable even for GCM resolutions in the grey zone.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 4, 2023
  3. Trends in surface air temperature (SAT) are a common metric for global warming. Using observations and observationally driven models, we show that a more comprehensive metric for global warming and weather extremes is the trend in surface equivalent potential temperature (Thetae_sfc) since it also accounts for the increase in atmospheric humidity and latent energy. From 1980 to 2019, while SAT increased by 0.79 ° C , Thetae_sfc increased by 1.48 ° C globally and as much as 4 ° C in the tropics. The increase in water vapor is responsible for the factor of 2 difference between SAT and Thetae_sfc trends. Thetae_sfc increased more uniformly (than SAT) between the midlatitudes of the southern hemisphere and the northern hemisphere, revealing the global nature of the heating added by greenhouse gases (GHGs). Trends in heat extremes and extreme precipitation are correlated strongly with the global/tropical trends in Thetae_sfc. The tropical amplification of Thetae_sfc is as large as the arctic amplification of SAT, accounting for the observed global positive trends in deep convection and a 20% increase in heat extremes. With unchecked GHG emissions, while SAT warming can reach 4.8 ° C by 2100, the global mean Thetae_sfc can increase by as muchmore »as 12 ° C , with corresponding increases of 12 ° C (median) to 24 ° C (5% of grid points) in land surface temperature extremes, a 14- to 30-fold increase in frequency of heat extremes, a 40% increase in the energy available for tropical deep convection, and an up to 60% increase in extreme precipitation.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 8, 2023
  4. Abstract

    The eastern Pacific double-ITCZ bias has long been attributed to the warm bias of SST in the southeastern Pacific and associated local air–sea interaction. In this study, we conducted two simulations using the NCAR CESM1.2.1 to demonstrate that significant double-ITCZ bias can still form in the eastern Pacific through air–sea coupled feedback even when there is cold SST bias in the southeastern Pacific, indicating that other nonlocal culprits and mechanisms should be responsible for the double-ITCZ bias in the eastern Pacific. Further analyses show that the oversimulated convection in the northern ITCZ region and Central America in boreal winter may result in biases in the surface wind fields in the tropical northeastern Pacific in the atmospheric model, which favor the cooling of the ocean mixed layer through enhancement of latent heat flux and Ekman upwelling. These biases are passed into the ocean model in coupled simulations and result in a severe cold bias of SST in the northern ITCZ region. The overly cold SST bias persists in the subsequent spring, leading to the suppression of convection in the northern ITCZ region. The enhanced low-level cross-equatorial northerly wind strengthens the wind convergence south of the equator and transports abundant watermore »vapor to the convergence zone, strengthening the southern ITCZ convection. All these processes lead to the disappearance of the northern ITCZ and the enhancement of the southern ITCZ in boreal spring, forming a seasonally alternating double-ITCZ bias. This study suggests that convection biases in the northern ITCZ region and Central America in boreal winter may be a culprit for the double-ITCZ bias in the eastern Pacific.

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    The double-ITCZ bias has puzzled the climate modeling community for more than two decades. Here we show that, over the northeastern Pacific Ocean, precipitation and sea surface temperature (SST) biases are seasonally dependent in the NCAR CESM1 and 37 CMIP5 models, with positive biases during boreal summer–autumn and negative biases during boreal winter–spring, although the easterly wind bias persists year round. This seasonally dependent bias is found to be caused by the model’s failure to reproduce the climatological seasonal wind reversal of the North American monsoon. During winter–spring, the observed easterly wind dominates, so the simulated stronger wind speed enhances surface evaporation and lowers SST. It is opposite when the observed wind turns to westerly during summer–autumn. An easterly wind bias, mainly evident in the lower troposphere, also occurs in the atmospheric model when the observed SST is prescribed, suggesting that it is of atmospheric origin. When the atmospheric model resolution is doubled in the CESM1, both SST and precipitation are improved in association with the reduced easterly wind bias. During boreal spring, when the double-ITCZ bias is most significant, the northern and southern ITCZ can be improved by 29.0% and 18.8%, respectively, by increasing the horizontal resolution inmore »the CESM1. When dividing the 37 CMIP5 models into two groups on the basis of their horizontal resolutions, it is found that both the seasonally dependent biases over the northeastern Pacific and year-round biases over the southeastern Pacific are reduced substantially in the higher-resolution models, with improvement of ~30% in both regions during boreal spring. Close relationships between wind and precipitation biases over the northeastern and southeastern Pacific are also found among CMIP5 models.

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  6. Low-frequency intraseasonal oscillations in the tropical atmosphere in general circulation models (GCMs) were studied extensively in many previous studies. However, the simulation of the quasi-biweekly oscillation (QBWO), which is an important component of the intraseasonal oscillations, in GCMs has not received much attention. This paper evaluates the QBWO features over the South China Sea in early [May–June (MJ)] and late [August–September (AS)] summer in the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Community Atmosphere Model, version 5.3 (CAM5), using observations and reanalysis data. Results show that the major features of the spatial distribution of the QBWO in both MJ and AS are simulated reasonably well by the model, although the amplitude of the variation is overestimated. CAM5 captures the local oscillation in MJ and the westward propagation in AS of the QBWO. Although there are important biases in geographical location and intensity in MJ, the model represents the QBWO horizontal and vertical structure qualitatively well in AS. The diagnosis of the eddy vorticity budget is conducted to better understand the QBWO activities in the model. Both horizontal advection of relative vorticity and that of planetary vorticity (Coriolis parameter) are important for the local evolution of the QBWO in MJ in observationsmore »as well as model simulation, whereas advection of planetary vorticity contributes to the westward propagation of QBWO vorticity anomalies in AS. Since the Coriolis parameter f only changes with latitude, this suggests that the correct simulation of anomalous meridional wind is a key factor in the realistic simulation of the QBWO in the model.

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