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Azimuthally Averaged Wind and Thermodynamic Structures of Tropical Cyclones in Global Climate Models and Their Sensitivity to Horizontal Resolution

Moon, Yumin; Kim, Daehyun; Camargo, Suzana J.; Wing, Allison A.; Sobel, Adam H.; Murakami, Hiroyuki; Reed, Kevin A.; Scoccimarro, Enrico; Vecchi, Gabriel A.; Wehner, Michael F.; Zarzycki, Colin M.; Zhao, Ming

Characteristics of tropical cyclones (TCs) in global climate models (GCMs) are known to be influenced by details of the model configurations, including horizontal resolution and parameterization schemes. Understanding model-to-model differences in TC characteristics is a prerequisite for reducing uncertainty in future TC activity projections by GCMs. This study performs a process-level examination of TC structures in eight GCM simulations that span a range of horizontal resolutions from 1° to 0.25°. A recently developed set of process-oriented diagnostics is used to examine the azimuthally averaged wind and thermodynamic structures of the GCM-simulated TCs. Results indicate that the inner-core wind structures of simulated TCs are more strongly constrained by the horizontal resolutions of the models than are the thermodynamic structures of those TCs. As expected, the structures of TC circulations become more realistic with smaller horizontal grid spacing, such that the radii of maximum wind (RMW) become smaller, and the maximum vertical velocities occur off the center. However, the RMWs are still too large, especially at higher intensities, and there are rising motions occurring at the storm centers, inconsistently with observations. The distributions of precipitation, moisture, and radiative and surface turbulent heat fluxes around TCs are diverse, even across models with similar horizontal resolutions. At the same horizontal resolution, models that produce greater rainfall in the inner-core regions tend to simulate stronger TCs. When TCs are weak, the radial gradient of net column radiative flux convergence is comparable to that of surface turbulent heat fluxes, emphasizing the importance of cloud–radiative feedbacks during the early developmental phases of TCs.


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Also Published In

Journal of Climate

More About This Work

Academic Units
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Ocean and Climate Physics
Published Here
February 18, 2020