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Nonhydrostatic nested climate modeling: A case study of the 2010 summer season over the western United States

Authors

  • Bereket Lebassi-Habtezion,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Environmental Earth System Science and Woods Institute for the Environment, Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA
    • Corresponding author: B. Lebassi-Habtezion, Department of Environmental Earth System Science, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305–4216, USA. (bereketl@yahoo.com)

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  • Noah S. Diffenbaugh

    1. Department of Environmental Earth System Science and Woods Institute for the Environment, Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA
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Abstract

[1] The potential importance of local-scale climate phenomena motivates development of approaches to enable computationally feasible nonhydrostatic climate simulations. To that end, we evaluate the potential viability of nested nonhydrostatic model approaches, using the summer climate of the western United States (WUSA) as a case study. We use the Weather Research and Forecast (WRF) model to carry out five simulations of summer 2010. This suite allows us to test differences between nonhydrostatic and hydrostatic resolutions, single and multiple nesting approaches, and high- and low-resolution reanalysis boundary conditions. WRF simulations were evaluated against station observations, gridded observations, and reanalysis data over domains that cover the 11 WUSA states at nonhydrostatic grid spacing of 4 km and hydrostatic grid spacing of 25 km and 50 km. Results show that the nonhydrostatic simulations more accurately resolve the heterogeneity of surface temperature, precipitation, and wind speed features associated with the topography and orography of the WUSA region. In addition, we find that the simulation in which the nonhydrostatic grid is nested directly within the regional reanalysis exhibits the greatest overall agreement with observational data. Results therefore indicate that further development of nonhydrostatic nesting approaches is likely to yield important insights into the response of local-scale climate phenomena to increases in global greenhouse gas concentrations. However, the biases in regional precipitation, atmospheric circulation, and moisture flux identified in a subset of the nonhydrostatic simulations suggest that alternative nonhydrostatic modeling approaches such as superparameterization and variable-resolution global nonhydrostatic modeling will provide important complements to the nested approaches tested here.

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