Climate Dynamics

, Volume 50, Issue 7–8, pp 2443–2455 | Cite as

Implementation of a turbulent orographic form drag scheme in WRF and its application to the Tibetan Plateau

  • Xu Zhou
  • Kun Yang
  • Yan Wang


Sub-grid-scale orographic variation (smaller than 5 km) exerts turbulent form drag on atmospheric flows and significantly retards the wind speed. The Weather Research and Forecasting model (WRF) includes a turbulent orographic form drag (TOFD) scheme that adds the drag to the surface layer. In this study, another TOFD scheme has been incorporated in WRF3.7, which exerts an exponentially decaying drag from the surface layer to upper layers. To investigate the effect of the new scheme, WRF with the old scheme and with the new one was used to simulate the climate over the complex terrain of the Tibetan Plateau from May to October 2010. The two schemes were evaluated in terms of the direct impact (on wind fields) and the indirect impact (on air temperature and precipitation). The new TOFD scheme alleviates the mean bias in the surface wind components, and clearly reduces the root mean square error (RMSEs) in seasonal mean wind speed (from 1.10 to 0.76 m s−1), when referring to the station observations. Furthermore, the new TOFD scheme also generally improves the simulation of wind profile, as characterized by smaller biases and RMSEs than the old one when referring to radio sounding data. Meanwhile, the simulated precipitation with the new scheme is improved, with reduced mean bias (from 1.34 to 1.12 mm day−1) and RMSEs, which is due to the weakening of water vapor flux at low-level atmosphere with the new scheme when crossing the Himalayan Mountains. However, the simulation of 2-m air temperature is little improved.


Turbulent orographic form drag Tibetan Plateau Complex terrain WRF 



The authors are grateful to Dr Anton Beljaars for offering the filtered orography SD and the great help during code processing. This work was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 91537210, 41325019), by the International Partnership Program of Chinese Academy of Sciences (Grant No. 131C11KYSB20160061) and by the Strategic Priority Research Program (B) of Chinese Academy of Sciences (Grant No. XDB03030300). The authors are grateful to the two anonymous reviewers whose comments helped a lot to improve the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Tibetan Environment Changes and Land Surface Processes, Institute of Tibetan Plateau ResearchChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.Ministry of Education Key Laboratory for Earth System Modeling, Department of Earth System ScienceTsinghua UniversityBeijingChina
  3. 3.CAS Center for Excellence in Tibetan Plateau Earth SciencesBeijingChina
  4. 4.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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