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Title: Transforming the representation of the boundary layer and low clouds for high-resolution regional climate modeling: Final report

Stratocumulus and shallow cumulus clouds in subtropical oceanic regions (e.g., Southeast Pacific) cover thousands of square kilometers and play a key role in regulating global climate (e.g., Klein and Hartmann, 1993). Numerical modeling is an essential tool to study these clouds in regional and global systems, but the current generation of climate and weather models has difficulties in representing them in a realistic way (e.g., Siebesma et al., 2004; Stevens et al., 2007; Teixeira et al., 2011). While numerical models resolve the large-scale flow, subgrid-scale parameterizations are needed to estimate small-scale properties (e.g. boundary layer turbulence and convection, clouds, radiation), which have significant influence on the resolved scale due to the complex nonlinear nature of the atmosphere. To represent the contribution of these fine-scale processes to the resolved scale, climate models use various parameterizations, which are the main pieces in the model that contribute to the low clouds dynamics and therefore are the major sources of errors or approximations in their representation. In this project, we aim to 1) improve our understanding of the physical processes in thermal circulation and cloud formation, 2) examine the performance and sensitivity of various parameterizations in the regional weather model (Weather Research and Forecastingmore » model; WRF), and 3) develop, implement, and evaluate the advanced boundary layer parameterization in the regional model to better represent stratocumulus, shallow cumulus, and their transition. Thus, this project includes three major corresponding studies. We find that the mean diurnal cycle is sensitive to model domain in ways that reveal the existence of different contributions originating from the Southeast Pacific land-masses. The experiments suggest that diurnal variations in circulations and thermal structures over this region are influenced by convection over the Peruvian sector of the Andes cordillera, while the mostly dry mountain-breeze circulations force an additional component that results in semi-diurnal variations near the coast. A series of numerical tests, however, reveal sensitivity of the simulations to the choice of vertical grid, limiting the possibility of solid quantitative statements on the amplitudes and phases of the diurnal and semidiurnal components across the domain. According to our experiments, the Mellor-Yamada-Nakanishi-Niino (MYNN) boundary layer scheme and the WSM6 microphysics scheme is the combination of schemes that performs best. For that combination, mean cloud cover, liquid water path, and cloud depth are fairly wellsimulated, while mean cloud top height remains too low in comparison to observations. Both microphysics and boundary layer schemes contribute to the spread in liquid water path and cloud depth, although the microphysics contribution is slightly more prominent. Boundary layer schemes are the primary contributors to cloud top height, degree of adiabaticity, and cloud cover. Cloud top height is closely related to surface fluxes and boundary layer structure. Thus, our study infers that an appropriate tuning of cloud top height would likely improve the low-cloud representation in the model. Finally, we show that entrainment governs the degree of adiabaticity, while boundary layer decoupling is a control on cloud cover. In the intercomparison study using WRF single-column model experiments, most parameterizations show a poor agreement of the vertical boundary layer structure when compared with large-eddy simulation models. We also implement a new Total-Energy/Mass- Flux boundary layer scheme into the WRF model and evaluate its ability to simulate both stratocumulus and shallow cumulus clouds. Result comparisons against large-eddy simulation show that this advanced parameterization based on the new Eddy-Diffusivity/Mass-Flux approach provides a better performance than other boundary layer parameterizations.« less
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
Final Technical Report
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
Joint Institute for Regional Earth System Science and Engineering
Sponsoring Org:
Country of Publication:
United States