Organization of tropical convection in a GCM with varying vertical resolution; implications for the simulation of the Madden-Julian Oscillation
Experiments using a GCM with two different vertical resolutions show differences in the amount of variability in the tropical upper tropospheric zonal wind component associated with the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO). The GCM with lower vertical resolution shows very little variability in this quantity whereas when the vertical resolution is doubled in the free troposphere, the GCM produces variability which is of the same strength as observations. However, the eastward propagation of an enhanced convective region from the Indian Ocean into the west Pacific is not well represented in either simulation of this atmospheric GCM. A water-covered or “aqua-planet” version of the same GCM is used to investigate the behaviour of tropical convection when the vertical resolution is doubled. When the vertical resolution is increased, the spectrum of tropical cloud types changes from a bimodal distribution with peaks representing shallow cumulus and deep cumulonimbus clouds to a trimodal distribution with a third peak in mid-troposphere near the melting level. Associated with periods when these mid-level congestus clouds are dominant, the detrainment from these clouds significantly moistens the mid-troposphere. The appearance of these congestus clouds is shown to be partly due to improved resolution of the freezing level and the convective processes occurring at this level. However, due to the way in which convective detrainment is parametrized in this model, the vertical profile becomes rather noisy and this too contributes to the change in the nature of the convective clouds. The resulting cloud distribution more closely resembles observations, particularly during the suppressed phase of the MJO when cumulus congestus is the dominant cloud type.