Causes of energy fluxes biases in a stratocumulus region


Jousse, A, A Hall, F Sun, and J Teixeira. 2016. “Causes of energy fluxes biases in a stratocumulus region.” Climate Dynamics 46 (1): 571–584.


In this study, we evaluate the ability of the Weather Research and Forecasting model to simulate surface energy fluxes in the southeast Pacific stratocumulus region. A total of 18 simulations is performed for the period of October to November 2008, with various combinations of boundary layer, microphysics, and cumulus schemes. Simulated surface energy fluxes are compared to those measured during VOCALS-REx. Using a process-based model evaluation, errors in surface fluxes are attributed to errors in cloud properties. Net surface flux errors are mostly traceable to errors in cloud liquid water path (LWPcld), which produce biases in downward shortwave radiation. Two mechanisms controlling LWPcld are diagnosed. One involves microphysics schemes, which control LWPcld through the production of raindrops. The second mechanism involves boundary layer and cumulus schemes, which control moisture available for cloud by regulating boundary layer height. In this study, we demonstrate that when parameterizations are appropriately chosen, the stratocumulus deck and the related surface energy fluxes are reasonably well represented. In the most realistic experiments, the net surface flux is underestimated by about 10 W m−2. This remaining low bias is due to a systematic overestimation of the total surface cooling due to sensible and latent heat fluxes in our simulations. There does not appear to be a single physical reason for this bias. Finally, our results also suggest that inaccurate representation of boundary layer height is an important factor limiting further gains in model realism.

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Last updated on 03/25/2020