Composite Analysis of Winter Cyclones in a GCM: Influence on Climatological...

Bauer, M., and A. Del Genio (2006), Composite Analysis of Winter Cyclones in a GCM: Influence on Climatological Humidity, J. Climate, 19, 1652-1672.

The role of midlatitude baroclinic cyclones in maintaining the extratropical winter distribution of water vapor in an operational global climate model is investigated. A cyclone identification and tracking algorithm is used to compare the frequency of occurrence, propagation characteristics, and composite structure of 10 winters of storms in the Goddard Institute for Space Studies general circulation model (GCM) and in two reanalysis products. Cyclones are the major dynamical source of water vapor over the extratropical oceans in the reanalyses. The GCM produces fewer, generally weaker, and slower-moving cyclones than the reanalyses and is especially deficient in storms associated with secondary cyclogenesis. Composite fields show that GCM cyclones are shallower and drier aloft than those in the reanalyses and that their vertical structure is less tilted in the frontal region because of the GCM’s weaker ageostrophic circulation. This is consistent with the GCM’s underprediction of midlatitude cirrus. The GCM deficiencies do not appear to be primarily due to parameterization errors; the model is too dry despite producing less storm precipitation than is present in the reanalyses and in an experimental satellite precipitation dataset, and the weakness and shallow structure of GCM cyclones is already present at storm onset. These shortcomings may be common to most climate GCMs that do not resolve the mesoscale structure of frontal zones, and this may account for some universal problems in climate GCM midlatitude cloud properties.

Research Program: 
Atmospheric Dynamics and Precipitation Program (ADP)
Radiation Science Program (RSP)