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Publication Date
8 March 2017

Sensitivity of U.S. summer precipitation to model resolution and convective parameterizations across gray zone resolutions



Simulating summer precipitation is a significant challenge for climate models that rely on cumulus parameterizations to represent moist convection processes. Motivated by recent advances in computing that support very high-resolution modeling, this study aims to systematically evaluate the effects of model resolution and convective parameterizations across the gray zone resolutions. Simulations using the Weather Research and Forecasting model were conducted at grid spacings of 36 km, 12 km, and 4 km for two summers over the conterminous U.S. The convection-permitting simulations at 4 km grid spacing are most skillful in reproducing the observed precipitation spatial distributions and diurnal variability. Notable differences are found between simulations with the traditional Kain-Fritsch (KF) and the scale-aware Grell-Freitas (GF) convection schemes, with the latter more skillful in capturing the nocturnal timing in the Great Plains and North American monsoon regions. The GF scheme also simulates a smoother transition from convective to large-scale precipitation as resolution increases, resulting in reduced sensitivity to model resolution compared to the KF scheme. Nonhydrostatic dynamics has a positive impact on precipitation over complex terrain even at 12 km and 36 km grid spacings. With nudging of the winds toward observations, we show that the conspicuous warm biases in the Southern Great Plains are related to precipitation biases induced by large-scale circulation biases, which are insensitive to model resolution. Overall, notable improvements in simulating summer rainfall and its diurnal variability through convection-permitting modeling and scale-aware parameterizations suggest promising venues for improving climate simulations of water cycle processes.
“Sensitivity Of U.s. Summer Precipitation To Model Resolution And Convective Parameterizations Across Gray Zone Resolutions”. 2017. Journal Of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres 122. doi:10.1002/2016JD025896.
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