Differences in rain rate intensities between TRMM observations and community atmosphere model simulations Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • Precipitation related latent heating is important in driving the atmospheric general circulation and in generating intraseasonal to decadal atmospheric variability. Our ability to project future climate change, especially trends in costly precipitation extremes, hinges upon whether coupled GCMs capture processes that affect precipitation characteristics. Our study compares the tropical-subtropical precipitation characteristics of simulations by the NCAR CAM3.1 atmospheric GCM and observations derived from the NASA Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite. Despite a fairly good simulation of the annual mean rain rate, CAM rains about 10-50% more often than the real world and fails to capture heavy rainfall associated with deep convective systems over subtropical South America and U.S. Southern Plains. When it rains, there is a likelihood of 0.96-1.0 that it rains lightly in the model, compared to values of 0.84- 1.0 in TRMM data. On the other hand, the likelihood of the occurrence of moderate to heavy rainfall is an order of magnitude higher in observations (0.12-0.2) than that in the model (<0.02). Comparison of regionally aggregated PDFs of the rain rate shows that CAM underestimates the probability of NOT raining, overestimates the probability of light rain and almost completely misses the tails of the PDFs. The model compensates for the lack of heavy precipitation through raining more frequently within the light rain category, which leads to an annual rainfall amount close to what is observed. CAM captures the qualitative change of rain rate PDF from a "dry" oceanic to a ωet" oceanic region, but it fails to simulate the change of precipitation characteristics from an oceanic region to a land region where thunderstorm rainfall dominates. Copyright 2007 by the American Geophysical Union.

author list (cited authors)

  • Deng, Y. i., Bowman, K. P., & Jackson, C.

citation count

  • 10

publication date

  • January 2007