The diurnal cycle of precipitation over the Maritime Continent in a high-resolution atmospheric model

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Abstract

Climate models can exhibit systematic errors in their mean precipitation over the Maritime Continent of the Indonesian archipelago at the heart of the tropical warm pool. These can often be traced back to an erroneous simulation of the diurnal cycle, and can lead to errors in global climate, through planetary wave propagation. Here, we examine the simulation of the diurnal cycle over the Maritime Continent in a series of high-resolution integrations of the UK Met Office atmospheric model, with horizontal resolutions of 40 and 12 km (where the convection is parametrised) and 4 km (where the convection is explicitly resolved), as part of the Cascade project. In these models, the vertical heating profile over the islands changes from a convective profile with a mid-tropospheric maximum in the early afternoon to a more stratiform profile with upper-tropospheric heating and mid-tropospheric cooling later. The convective heating profile forces a first internal mode gravity wave that propagates rapidly offshore; the deep warm anomalies behind its downwelling wavefront suppress convection offshore during early afternoon. The stratiform heating profile forces a gravity wave with a higher-order vertical mode that propagates slowly offshore later in the afternoon. This mode has a negative, destabilising temperature anomaly in the mid-troposphere. Together with the convergence zone between the wave fronts of the two modes, favourable conditions are created for offshore convection. In the 4 km explicit convection model, the offshore convection responds strongly to this gravity wave forcing, in agreement with observations, supporting a gravity wave–convection paradigm for the diurnal cycle over the Maritime Continent. However, the convective response in the lower-resolution models is much less coherent, leading to errors in the diurnal cycle and mean precipitation. Hence, to improve climate model simulations, sensitivity to gravity wave forcing should be a factor in future convective parametrisation schemes. Copyright © 2011 Royal Meteorological Society

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