• general circulation modeling;
  • model development;
  • tropical cyclone

[1] The paper introduces a moist, deterministic test case of intermediate complexity for Atmospheric General Circulation Models (AGCMs). We suggest pairing an AGCM dynamical core with simple physical parameterizations to test the evolution of a single, idealized, initially weak vortex into a tropical cyclone. The initial conditions are based on an initial vortex seed that is in gradient-wind and hydrostatic balance. The suggested “simple-physics” package consists of parameterizations of bulk aerodynamic surface fluxes for moisture, sensible heat and momentum, boundary layer diffusion, and large-scale condensation. Such a configuration includes the important driving mechanisms for tropical cyclones, and leads to a rapid intensification of the initial vortex over a forecast period of ten days. The simple-physics test paradigm is not limited to tropical cyclones, and can be universally applied to other flow fields. The physical parameterizations are described in detail to foster model intercomparisons. The characteristics of the intermediate-complexity test case are demonstrated with the help of four hydrostatic dynamical cores that are part of the Community Atmosphere Model version 5 (CAM 5) developed at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). In particular, these are the Finite-Volume, Spectral Element, and spectral transform Eulerian and semi-Lagrangian dynamical cores that are coupled to the simple-physics suite. The simulations show that despite the simplicity of the physics forcings the models develop the tropical cyclone at horizontal grid spacings of about 55 km and finer. The simple-physics simulations reveal essential differences in the storm's structure and strength due to the choice of the dynamical core. Similar differences are also seen in complex full-physics aqua-planet experiments with CAM 5 which serve as a motivator for this work. The results suggest that differences in complex full-physics simulations can be, at least partly, replicated in simplified model setups. The simplified experiments might therefore provide easier access to an improved physical understanding of how the dynamical core and moist physical parameterizations interact. It is concluded that the simple-physics test case has the potential to close the gap between dry dynamical core assessments and full-physics aqua-planet experiments, and can shed light on the role of the dynamical core in the presence of moisture processes.