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Publication Date
1 January 2013

The Aqua Planet Experiment (APE): CONTROL SST Simulation



Climate simulations by 16 atmospheric general circulation models (AGCMs) are compared on an aqua-planet, a water-covered Earth with prescribed sea surface temperature varying only in latitude. The idealized configuration is designed to expose differences in the circulation simulated by different models. Basic features of the aqua-planet climate are characterized by comparison with Earth. The models display a wide range of behavior. The balanced component of the tropospheric mean flow, and mid-latitude eddy covariances subject to budget constraints, vary relatively little among the models. In contrast, differences in damping in the dynamical core strongly influence transient eddy amplitudes. Historical uncertainty in modeled lower stratospheric temperatures persists in APE. Aspects of the circulation generated more directly by interactions between the resolved fluid dynamics and parameterized moist processes vary greatly. The tropical Hadley circulation forms either a single or double inter-tropical convergence zone (ITCZ) at the equator, with large variations in mean precipitation. The equatorial wave spectrum shows a wide range of precipitation intensity and propagation characteristics. Kelvin mode-like eastward propagation with remarkably constant phase speed dominates in most models. Westward propagation, less dispersive than the equatorial Rossby modes, dominates in a few models or occurs within an eastward propagating envelope in others.The mean structure of the ITCZ is related to precipitation variability, consistent with previous studies. The aqua-planet global energy balance is unknown but the models produce a surprisingly large range of top of atmosphere global net flux, dominated by differences in shortwave reflection by clouds. A number of newly developed models, not optimized for Earth climate, contribute to this. Possible reasons for differences in the optimized models are discussed. The aqua-planet configuration is intended as one component of an experimental hierarchy used to evaluate AGCMs.This comparison does suggest that the range of model behavior could be better understood and reduced in conjunction with Earth climate simulations. Controlled experimentation is required to explore individual model behavior and investigate convergence of the aqua-planet climate with increasing resolution.

“The Aqua Planet Experiment (Ape): Control Sst Simulation”. 2013. Journal Of Meteorology Of Japan, 17-56. doi:10.2151/jmsj.2013-A02.
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