Impacts of atmospheric and oceanic resolution on the tropical Pacific climatology simulated by GFDL's new climate models

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Andrew Thorne Wittenberg1, Gabriel Andres Vecchi1, Thomas L Delworth1, Anthony Rosati2, Whit Anderson1 and Fanrong Jenny Zeng1, (1)NOAA/GFDL, Princeton, NJ, United States, (2)University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO, United States
We examine impacts of atmospheric and oceanic grid refinement on simulations of the tropical Pacific climatology, using a series of high-resolution global coupled GCMs recently developed at GFDL. Starting from the CM2.1 model developed for CMIP3, the new models progressively refine the horizontal grid spacing in the atmosphere by a factor of five (CM2.5-FLOR), and additionally in the ocean by factors of four (CM2.5) and ten (CM2.6). The atmospheric refinement is found to substantially improve the coupled simulation's tropical Pacific climatology of SST, rainfall, surface pressure, winds, coastal upwelling, and upper-ocean temperature and salinity -- and also reduces the net air-sea heat flux into the ocean near the equator, indicating reduced ocean-dynamical cooling due to weaker trade winds. Oceanic refinement, in contrast, results in much less improvement to the simulated surface climatology -- and in some respects actually degrades the simulation, for example by over-intensifying the thermal stratification of the equatorial upper ocean. This suggests that in the more strongly-eddying regimes permitted by higher resolution, some of the ocean component's physical parameterizations may need retuning or reformulation. The causes of these various sensitivities are discussed, along with avenues toward future improvements.