Climate dynamics

Sun F, Hall A, Qu X. On the relationship between low cloud variability and lower tropospheric stability in the Southeast Pacific. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics [Internet]. 2011;11 :9053–9065. Publisher's VersionAbstract
In this study, we examine marine low cloud cover variability in the Southeast Pacific and its association with lower-tropospheric stability (LTS) across a spectrum of timescales. On both daily and interannual timescales, LTS and low cloud amount are very well correlated in austral summer (DJF). Meanwhile in winter (JJA), when ambient LTS increases, the LTS–low cloud relationship substantially weakens. The DJF LTS–low cloud relationship also weakens in years with unusually large ambient LTS values. These are generally strong El Niño years, in which DJF LTS values are comparable to those typically found in JJA. Thus the LTS–low cloud relationship is strongly modulated by the seasonal cycle and the ENSO phenomenon. We also investigate the origin of LTS anomalies closely associated with low cloud variability during austral summer. We find that the ocean and atmosphere are independently involved in generating anomalies in LTS and hence variability in the Southeast Pacific low cloud deck. This highlights the importance of the physical (as opposed to chemical) component of the climate system in generating internal variability in low cloud cover. It also illustrates the coupled nature of the climate system in this region, and raises the possibility of cloud feedbacks related to LTS. We conclude by addressing the implications of the LTS–low cloud relationship in the Southeast Pacific for low cloud feedbacks in anthropogenic climate change.
Hughes M, Hall A, Kim J. Human-induced changes in wind, temperature and relative humidity during Santa Ana events. Climatic Change [Internet]. 2011;109 (S1) :119–132. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The frequency and character of Southern California’s Santa Ana wind events are investigated within a 12-km-resolution downscaling of late-20th and mid-21st century time periods of the National Center for Atmospheric Research Community Climate System Model global climate change scenario run. The number of Santa Ana days per winter season is approximately 20% fewer in the mid 21st century compared to the late 20th century. Since the only systematic and sustained difference between these two periods is the level of anthropogenic forcing, this effect is anthropogenic in origin. In both time periods, Santa Ana winds are partly katabatically-driven by a temperature difference between the cold wintertime air pooling in the desert against coastal mountains and the adjacent warm air over the ocean. However, this katabatic mechanism is significantly weaker during the mid 21st century time period. This occurs because of the well-documented differential warming associated with transient climate change, with more warming in the desert interior than over the ocean. Thus the mechanism responsible for the decrease in Santa Ana frequency originates from a well-known aspect of the climate response to increasing greenhouse gases, but cannot be understood or simulated without mesoscale atmospheric dynamics. In addition to the change in Santa Ana frequency, we investigate changes during Santa Anas in two other meteorological variables known to be relevant to fire weather conditions—relative humidity and temperature. We find a decrease in the relative humidity and an increase in temperature. Both these changes would favor fire. A fire behavior model accounting for changes in wind, temperature, and relative humidity simultaneously is necessary to draw firm conclusions about future fire risk and growth associated with Santa Ana events. While our results are somewhat limited by a relatively small sample size, they illustrate an observed and explainable regional change in climate due to plausible mesoscale processes.
Waliser D, Kim J, Xue Y, Chao Y, Eldering A, Fovell R, Hall A, Li Q, Liou KN, McWilliams JC, et al. Simulating cold season snowpack: Impacts of snow albedo and multi-layer snow physics. Climatic Change [Internet]. 2011;109 (S1) :95–117. Publisher's VersionAbstract
This study used numerical experiments to investigate two important concerns in simulating the cold season snowpack: the impact of the alterations of snow albedo due to anthropogenic aerosol deposition on snowpack and the treatment of snow physics using a multi-layer snow model. The snow albedo component considered qualitatively future changes in anthropogenic emissions and the subsequent increase or decrease of black carbon deposition on the Sierra Nevada snowpack by altering the prescribed snow albedo values. The alterations in the snow albedo primarily affect the snowpack via surface energy budget with little impact on precipitation. It was found that a decrease in snow albedo (by as little as 5–10% of the reference values) due to an increase in local emissions enhances snowmelt and runoff (by as much as 30–50%) in the early part of a cold season, resulting in reduced snowmelt-driven runoff (by as much as 30–50%) in the later part of the cold season, with the greatest impacts at higher elevations. An increase in snow albedo associated with reduced anthropogenic emissions results in the opposite effects. Thus, the most notable impact of the decrease in snow albedo is to enhance early-season snowmelt and to reduce late-season snowmelt, resulting in an adverse impact on warm season water resources in California. The timing of the sensitivity of snow water equivalent (SWE), snowmelt, and runoff vary systematically according to terrain elevation; as terrain elevation increases, the peak response of these fields occurs later in the cold season. The response of SWE and surface energy budget to the alterations in snow albedo found in this study shows that the effects of snow albedo on snowpack are further enhanced via local snow-albedo feedback. Results from this experiment suggest that a reduction in local emissions, which would increase snow albedo, could alleviate the early snowmelt and reduced runoff in late winter and early spring caused by global climate change, at least partially. The most serious uncertainties associated with this part of the study are a quantification of the relationship between the amount of black carbon deposition and snow albedo—a subject of future study. The comparison of the spring snowpack simulated with a single- and multi-layer snow model during the spring of 1998 shows that a more realistic treatment of snow physics in a multi-layer snow model could improve snowpack simulations, especially during spring when snow ablation is significant, or in conjunction with climate change projections.
Berg N, Hall A, Capps SB, Hughes M. El Niño–Southern Oscillation impacts on winter winds over Southern California. Climate Dynamics [Internet]. 2013;40 (1–2) :109–121. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Changes in wintertime 10 m winds due to the El Niño-Southern Oscillation are examined using a 6 km resolution climate simulation of Southern California covering the period from 1959 through 2001. Wind speed statistics based on regional averages reveal a general signal of increased mean wind speeds and wind speed variability during El Niño across the region. An opposite and nearly as strong signal of decreased wind speed variability during La Niña is also found. These signals are generally more significant than the better-known signals in precipitation. In spite of these regional-scale generalizations, there are significant sub-regional mesoscale structures in the wind speed impacts. In some cases, impacts on mean winds and wind variability at the sub-regional scale are opposite to those of the region as a whole. All of these signals can be interpreted in terms of shifts in occurrences of the region’s main wind regimes due to the El Niño phenomenon. The results of this study can be used to understand how interannual wind speed variations in regions of Southern California are influenced by the El Niño phenomenon.
Toniazzo T, Sun F, Mechoso CR, Hall A. A regional modeling study of the diurnal cycle in the lower troposphere in the south-eastern tropical Pacific. Climate Dynamics [Internet]. 2013;41 (7–8) :1899–1922. Publisher's VersionAbstract
We examine the influence of the South-American land-mass and its mountains on the significant cyclic diurnal and semidiurnal components of the average circulation in the adjacent area of the southeastern tropical Pacific (SEP). Our approach is based on a number of numerical simulations with the regional atmospheric model weather research and forecasting forced by the National Centers for Environmental Prediction’s final analysis operational analysis data. In the control simulation the model domain covers the SEP and a large part of South America. In several sensitivity experiments the domain is reduced to progressively exclude continental areas. We find that the mean diurnal cycle is sensitive to model domain in ways that reveal the existence of different contributions originating from the Chilean and Peruvian land-masses. The experiments suggest that diurnal variations in circulations and thermal structures over the SEP (mainly forced by local insolation) are influenced by convection over the Peruvian sector of the Andes cordillera, while the mostly dry mountain-breeze circulations force an additional component that results in semi-diurnal variations near the coast. A series of numerical tests, however, reveal sensitivity of the simulations to the choice of vertical grid, limiting the possibility of solid quantitative statements on the amplitudes and phases of the diurnal and semidiurnal components across the domain.
Huang HY, Hall A, Teixeira J. Evaluation of the WRF PBL parameterizations for marine boundary layer clouds: Cumulus and stratocumulus. Monthly Weather Review [Internet]. 2013;141 :2265–2271. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The performance of five boundary layer parameterizations in the Weather Research and Forecasting Model is examined for marine boundary layer cloud regions running in single-column mode. Most parameterizations show a poor agreement of the vertical boundary layer structure when compared with large-eddy simulation models. These comparisons against large-eddy simulation show that a parameterization based on the eddy-diffusivity/mass-flux approach provides a better performance. The results also illustrate the key role of boundary layer parameterizations in model performance.
Kapnick S, Hall A. Causes of recent changes in western North American snowpack. Climate Dynamics [Internet]. 2012;40 (1–2) :109–121. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Changes in wintertime 10 m winds due to the El Niño-Southern Oscillation are examined using a 6 km resolution climate simulation of Southern California covering the period from 1959 through 2001. Wind speed statistics based on regional averages reveal a general signal of increased mean wind speeds and wind speed variability during El Niño across the region. An opposite and nearly as strong signal of decreased wind speed variability during La Niña is also found. These signals are generally more significant than the better-known signals in precipitation. In spite of these regional-scale generalizations, there are significant sub-regional mesoscale structures in the wind speed impacts. In some cases, impacts on mean winds and wind variability at the sub-regional scale are opposite to those of the region as a whole. All of these signals can be interpreted in terms of shifts in occurrences of the region’s main wind regimes due to the El Niño phenomenon. The results of this study can be used to understand how interannual wind speed variations in regions of Southern California are influenced by the El Niño phenomenon.
Capps SB, Hall A, Hughes M. Sensitivity of Southern California wind energy to turbine characteristics. Wind Energy [Internet]. 2014;17 (1) :141–159. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Using output from a high‐resolution meteorological simulation, we evaluate the sensitivity of southern California wind energy generation to variations in key characteristics of current wind turbines. These characteristics include hub height, rotor diameter and rated power, and depend on turbine make and model. They shape the turbine's power curve and thus have large implications for the energy generation capacity of wind farms. For each characteristic, we find complex and substantial geographical variations in the sensitivity of energy generation. However, the sensitivity associated with each characteristic can be predicted by a single corresponding climate statistic, greatly simplifying understanding of the relationship between climate and turbine optimization for energy production. In the case of the sensitivity to rotor diameter, the change in energy output per unit change in rotor diameter at any location is directly proportional to the weighted average wind speed between the cut‐in speed and the rated speed. The sensitivity to rated power variations is likewise captured by the percent of the wind speed distribution between the turbines rated and cut‐out speeds. Finally, the sensitivity to hub height is proportional to lower atmospheric wind shear. Using a wind turbine component cost model, we also evaluate energy output increase per dollar investment in each turbine characteristic. We find that rotor diameter increases typically provide a much larger wind energy boost per dollar invested, although there are some zones where investment in the other two characteristics is competitive. Our study underscores the need for joint analysis of regional climate, turbine engineering and economic modeling to optimize wind energy production.
Jin Y, Randerson JT, Faivre N, Capps SB, Hall A, Goulden ML. Contrasting controls on wildland fires in Southern California during periods with and without Santa Ana winds. Journal of Geophysical Research—Biogeosciences [Internet]. 2014;119 (3) :432–450. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Wildland fires in Southern California can be divided into two categories: fall fires, which are typically driven by strong offshore Santa Ana winds, and summer fires, which occur with comparatively weak onshore winds and hot and dry weather. Both types of fire contribute significantly to annual burned area and economic loss. An improved understanding of the relationship between Southern California's meteorology and fire is needed to improve predictions of how fire will change in the future and to anticipate management needs. We used output from a regional climate model constrained by reanalysis observations to identify Santa Ana events and partition fires into those occurring during periods with and without Santa Ana conditions during 1959–2009. We then developed separate empirical regression models for Santa Ana and non‐Santa Ana fires to quantify the effects of meteorology on fire number and size. These models explained approximately 58% of the seasonal and interannual variation in the number of Santa Ana fires and 36% of the variation in non‐Santa Ana fires. The number of Santa Ana fires increased during years when relative humidity during Santa Ana events and fall precipitation were below average, indicating that fuel moisture is a key controller of ignition. Relative humidity strongly affected Santa Ana fire size. Cumulative precipitation during the previous three winters was significantly correlated with the number of non‐Santa Ana fires, presumably through increased fine fuel density and connectivity between infrastructure and nearby vegetation. Both relative humidity and the preceding wet season precipitation influenced non‐Santa Ana fire size. Regression models driven by meteorology explained 57% of the temporal variation in Santa Ana burned area and 22% of the variation in non‐Santa Ana burned area. The area burned by non‐Santa Ana fires has increased steadily by 1.7% year−1 since 1959 (p < 0.006); the occurrence of extremely large Santa Ana fires has increased abruptly since 2003. Our results underscore the need to separately consider the fuel and meteorological controls on Santa Ana and non‐Santa Ana fires when projecting climate change impacts on regional fire.
Qu X, Hall A, Klein SA, Caldwell PM. The strength of the tropical inversion and its response to climate change in 18 CMIP5 models. Climate Dynamics [Internet]. 2015;45 (1–2) :375–396. Publisher's VersionAbstract

We examine the tropical inversion strength, measured by the estimated inversion strength (EIS), and its response to climate change in 18 models associated with phase 5 of the coupled model intercomparison project (CMIP5). While CMIP5 models generally capture the geographic distribution of observed EIS, they systematically underestimate it off the west coasts of continents, due to a warm bias in sea surface temperature. The negative EIS bias may contribute to the low bias in tropical low-cloud cover in the same models. Idealized perturbation experiments reveal that anthropogenic forcing leads directly to EIS increases, independent of “temperature-mediated” EIS increases associated with long-term oceanic warming. This fast EIS response to anthropogenic forcing is strongly impacted by nearly instantaneous continental warming. The temperature-mediated EIS change has contributions from both uniform and non-uniform oceanic warming. The substantial EIS increases in uniform oceanic warming simulations are due to warming with height exceeding the moist adiabatic lapse rate in tropical warm pools. EIS also increases in fully-coupled ocean–atmosphere simulations where CO2CO2 concentration is instantaneously quadrupled, due to both fast and temperature-mediated changes. The temperature-mediated EIS change varies with tropical warming in a nonlinear fashion: The EIS change per degree tropical warming is much larger in the early stage of the simulations than in the late stage, due to delayed warming in the eastern parts of the subtropical oceans. Given the importance of EIS in regulating tropical low-cloud cover, this suggests that the tropical low-cloud feedback may also be nonlinear.

Huang HY, Capps SB, Huang SC, Hall A. Downscaling near-surface wind over complex terrain using a physically-based statistical modeling approach. Climate Dynamics [Internet]. 2015;44 (1–2) :529–542. Publisher's VersionAbstract
A physically-based statistical modeling approach to downscale coarse resolution reanalysis near-surface winds over a region of complex terrain is developed and tested in this study. Our approach is guided by physical variables and meteorological relationships that are important for determining near-surface wind flow. Preliminary fine scale winds are estimated by correcting the course-to-fine grid resolution mismatch in roughness length. Guided by the physics shaping near-surface winds, we then formulate a multivariable linear regression model which uses near-surface micrometeorological variables and the preliminary estimates as predictors to calculate the final wind products. The coarse-to-fine grid resolution ratio is approximately 10–1 for our study region of southern California. A validated 3-km resolution dynamically-downscaled wind dataset is used to train and validate our method. Winds from our statistical modeling approach accurately reproduce the dynamically-downscaled near-surface wind field with wind speed magnitude and wind direction errors of <1.5 ms−1 and 30°, respectively. This approach can greatly accelerate the production of near-surface wind fields that are much more accurate than reanalysis data, while limiting the amount of computational and time intensive dynamical downscaling. Future studies will evaluate the ability of this approach to downscale other reanalysis data and climate model outputs with varying coarse-to-fine grid resolutions and domains of interest.
Renault L, Hall A, McWilliams JC. Orographic shaping of US west coast wind profiles during the upwelling season. Climate Dynamics [Internet]. 2015;46 (1) :273–289. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Spatial and temporal variability of nearshore winds in eastern boundary current systems is affected by orography, coastline shape, and air-sea interaction. These lead to a weakening of the wind close to the coast: the so-called wind drop-off. In this study, regional atmospheric simulations over the US West Coast are used to demonstrate monthly characteristics of the wind drop-off and assess the mechanisms controlling it. Using a long-term simulation, we show the wind drop-off has spatial and seasonal variability in both its offshore extent and intensity. The offshore extent varies from around 10 to 80 km from the coast and the wind reduction from 10 to 80 %. We show that when the mountain orography is combined with the coastline shape of a cape, it has the biggest influence on wind drop-off. The primary associated processes are the orographically-induced vortex stretching and the surface drag related to turbulent momentum flux divergence that has an enhanced drag coefficient over land. Orographically-induced tilting/twisting can also be locally significant in the vicinity of capes. The land-sea drag difference acts as a barrier to encroachment of the wind onto the land through turbulent momentum flux divergence. It turns the wind parallel to the shore and slightly reduces it close to the coast. Another minor factor is the sharp coastal sea surface temperature front associated with upwelling. This can weaken the surface wind in the coastal strip by shallowing the marine boundary layer and decoupling it from the overlying troposphere.
Brient F, Schneider T, Tan Z, Bony S, Qu X, Hall A. Shallowness of tropical low clouds as a predictor of climate models' response to warming. Climate Dynamics [Internet]. 2016;47 (1) :433–449. Publisher's VersionAbstract
How tropical low clouds change with climate remains the dominant source of uncertainty in global warming projections. An analysis of an ensemble of CMIP5 climate models reveals that a significant part of the spread in the models’ climate sensitivity can be accounted by differences in the climatological shallowness of tropical low clouds in weak-subsidence regimes: models with shallower low clouds in weak-subsidence regimes tend to have a higher climate sensitivity than models with deeper low clouds. The dynamical mechanisms responsible for the model differences are analyzed. Competing effects of parameterized boundary-layer turbulence and shallow convection are found to be essential. Boundary-layer turbulence and shallow convection are typically represented by distinct parameterization schemes in current models—parameterization schemes that often produce opposing effects on low clouds. Convective drying of the boundary layer tends to deepen low clouds and reduce the cloud fraction at the lowest levels; turbulent moistening tends to make low clouds more shallow but affects the low-cloud fraction less. The relative importance different models assign to these opposing mechanisms contributes to the spread of the climatological shallowness of low clouds and thus to the spread of low-cloud changes under global warming.
Huang HY, Hall A. A physically-based hybrid framework to estimate daily-mean surface fluxes over complex terrain. Climate Dynamics [Internet]. 2016;46 (11) :3883–3897. Publisher's VersionAbstract
In this study we developed and examined a hybrid modeling approach integrating physically-based equations and statistical downscaling to estimate fine-scale daily-mean surface turbulent fluxes (i.e., sensible and latent heat fluxes) for a region of southern California that is extensively covered by varied vegetation types over a complex terrain. The selection of model predictors is guided by physical parameterizations of surface flux used in land surface models and analysis showing net shortwave radiation that is a major source of variability in the surface energy budget. Through a structure of multivariable regression processes with an application of near-surface wind estimates from a previous study, we successfully reproduce dynamically-downscaled 3 km resolution surface flux data. The overall error in our estimates is less than 20 % for both sensible and latent heat fluxes, while slightly larger errors are seen in high-altitude regions. The major sources of error in estimates include the limited information provided in coarse reanalysis data, the accuracy of near-surface wind estimates, and an ignorance of the nonlinear diurnal cycle of surface fluxes when using daily-mean data. However, with reasonable and acceptable errors, this hybrid modeling approach provides promising, fine-scale products of surface fluxes that are much more accurate than reanalysis data, without performing intensive dynamical simulations.
Jousse A, Hall A, Sun F, Teixeira J. Causes of energy fluxes biases in a stratocumulus region. Climate Dynamics [Internet]. 2016;46 (1) :571–584. Publisher's VersionAbstract
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.