Improving the simulation of tropical convective cloud-top heights in CAM5 with CloudSat observations

Wang, MC, Zhang GJ.  2018.  Improving the simulation of tropical convective cloud-top heights in CAM5 with CloudSat observations. Journal of Climate. 31:5189-5204.

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climate simulations, community atmosphere model, cumulus, deep convection, general-circulation models, impact, Meteorology & Atmospheric Sciences, Mixing model, parameterization, part i, satellite-observations, scheme, stochastic


Using 4 years of CloudSat data, the simulation of tropical convective cloud-top heights (CCTH) above 6 km simulated by the convection scheme in the Community Atmosphere Model, version 5 (CAM5), is evaluated. Compared to CloudSat observations, CAM5 underestimates CCTH by more than 2 km on average. Further analysis of model results suggests that the dilute CAPE calculation, which has been incorporated into the convective parameterization since CAM4, is a main factor restricting CCTH to much lower levels. After removing this restriction, more convective clouds develop into higher altitudes, although convective clouds with tops above 12 km are still underestimated significantly. The environmental conditions under which convection develops in CAM5 are compared with CloudSat observations for convection with similar CCTHs. It is shown that the model atmosphere is much more unstable compared to CloudSat observations, and there is too much entrainment in CAM5. Since CCTHs are closely associated with cloud radiative forcing, the impacts of CCTH on model simulation are further investigated. Results show that the change of CCTH has important impacts on cloud radiative forcing and precipitation. With increased CCTHs, there is more cloud radiative forcing in tropical Africa and the eastern Pacific, but less cloud radiative forcing in the western Pacific. The contribution to total convective precipitation from convection with cloud tops above 9 km is also increased substantially.