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Keywords:

  • climate model validation;
  • Rossby wave breaking;
  • potential vorticity;
  • ECHAM5;
  • ECHAM5-HAM;
  • model resolution;
  • jet streams

ABSTRACT

Breaking synoptic-scale Rossby waves (RWB) at the tropopause level are central to the daily weather evolution in the extratropics and the subtropics. RWB leads to pronounced meridional transport of heat, moisture, momentum, and chemical constituents. RWB events are manifest as elongated and narrow structures in the tropopause-level potential vorticity (PV) field. A feature-based validation approach is used to assess the representation of Northern Hemisphere RWB in present-day climate simulations carried out with the ECHAM5-HAM climate model at three different resolutions (T42L19, T63L31, and T106L31) against the ERA-40 reanalysis data set. An objective identification algorithm extracts RWB events from the isentropic PV field and allows quantifying the frequency of occurrence of RWB. The biases in the frequency of RWB are then compared to biases in the time mean tropopause-level jet wind speeds. The ECHAM5-HAM model captures the location of the RWB frequency maxima in the Northern Hemisphere at all three resolutions. However, at coarse resolution (T42L19) the overall frequency of RWB, i.e. the frequency averaged over all seasons and the entire hemisphere, is underestimated by 28%.The higher-resolution simulations capture the overall frequency of RWB much better, with a minor difference between T63L31 and T106L31 (frequency errors of −3.5 and 6%, respectively). The number of large-size RWB events is significantly underestimated by the T42L19 experiment and well represented in the T106L31 simulation. On the local scale, however, significant differences to ERA-40 are found in the higher-resolution simulations. These differences are regionally confined and vary with the season. The most striking difference between T106L31 and ERA-40 is that ECHAM5-HAM overestimates the frequency of RWB in the subtropical Atlantic in all seasons except for spring. This bias maximum is accompanied by an equatorward extension of the subtropical westerlies.