Diagnosing the average spatio-temporal impact of convective systems – Part 1: A methodology for evaluating climate models
An earlier method to determine the mean response of upper-tropospheric water to localised deep convective systems (DC systems) is improved and applied to the EC-Earth climate model. Following Zelinka and Hartmann (2009), several fields related to moist processes and radiation from various satellites are composited with respect to the local maxima in rain rate to determine their spatio-temporal evolution with deep convection in the central Pacific Ocean. Major improvements to the earlier study are the isolation of DC systems in time so as to prevent multiple sampling of the same event, and a revised definition of the mean background state that allows for better characterisation of the DC-system-induced anomalies.
The observed DC systems in this study propagate westward at ~4 m s −1. Both the upper-tropospheric relative humidity and the outgoing longwave radiation are substantially perturbed over a broad horizontal extent and for periods >30 h. The cloud fraction anomaly is fairly constant with height but small maximum can be seen around 200 hPa. The cloud ice water content anomaly is mostly confined to pressures greater than 150 hPa and reaches its maximum around 450 hPa, a few hours after the peak convection. Consistent with the large increase in upper-tropospheric cloud ice water content, albedo increases dramatically and persists about 30 h after peak convection.
Applying the compositing technique to EC-Earth allows an assessment of the model representation of DC systems. The model captures the large-scale responses, most notably for outgoing longwave radiation, but there are a number of important differences. DC systems appear to propagate eastward in the model, suggesting a strong link to Kelvin waves instead of equatorial Rossby waves. The diurnal cycle in the model is more pronounced and appears to trigger new convection further to the west each time. Finally, the modelled ice water content anomaly peaks at pressures greater than 500 hPa and in the upper troposphere between 250 hPa and 500 hPa, there is less ice than the observations and it does not persist as long after peak convection. The modelled upper-tropospheric cloud fraction anomaly, however, is of a comparable magnitude and exhibits a similar longevity as the observations.