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Published November 2016 | Published
Journal Article Open

The Impact of Horizontal Resolution on North American Monsoon Gulf of California Moisture Surges in a Suite of Coupled Global Climate Models


The impact of atmosphere and ocean horizontal resolution on the climatology of North American monsoon Gulf of California (GoC) moisture surges is examined in a suite of global circulation models (CM2.1, FLOR, CM2.5, CM2.6, and HiFLOR) developed at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL). These models feature essentially the same physical parameterizations but differ in horizontal resolution in either the atmosphere (≃200, 50, and 25 km) or the ocean (≃1°, 0.25°, and 0.1°). Increasing horizontal atmospheric resolution from 200 to 50 km results in a drastic improvement in the model's capability of accurately simulating surge events. The climatological near-surface flow and moisture and precipitation anomalies associated with GoC surges are overall satisfactorily simulated in all higher-resolution models. The number of surge events agrees well with reanalyses, but models tend to underestimate July–August surge-related precipitation and overestimate September surge-related rainfall in the southwestern United States. Large-scale controls supporting the development of GoC surges, such as tropical easterly waves (TEWs), tropical cyclones (TCs), and trans-Pacific Rossby wave trains (RWTs), are also well captured, although models tend to underestimate the TEW and TC magnitude and number. Near-surface GoC surge features and their large-scale forcings (TEWs, TCs, and RWTs) do not appear to be substantially affected by a finer representation of the GoC at higher ocean resolution. However, the substantial reduction of the eastern Pacific warm sea surface temperature bias through flux adjustment in the Forecast-Oriented Low Ocean Resolution (FLOR) model leads to an overall improvement of tropical–extratropical controls on GoC moisture surges and the seasonal cycle of precipitation in the southwestern United States.

Additional Information

© 2016 American Meteorological Society. Manuscript received 7 March 2016, in final form 28 July 2016, published online: 21 October 2016. S. P. was supported by the NOAA Climate and Global Change Postdoctoral Fellowship Program, administered by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado. S. B. acknowledges support from the Davidow Discovery Fund. The authors are grateful to A. Rosati for the development of the CM2.5 and CM2.6 models, F. Zeng for producing the CM2.5 dataset, and K. Findell and three anonymous reviewers for constructive comments on a first version of this manuscript.

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