Clouds and Radiation in a Mock‐Walker Circulation

Publication Year


Journal Article

The Walker circulation connects the regions with deep atmospheric convection in the western tropical Pacific to the shallow‐convection, tropospheric subsidence, and stratocumulus cloud decks of the eastern Pacific. The purpose of this study is to better understand the multi‐scale interactions between the Walker circulation, cloud systems, and interactive radiation. To do this we simulate a mock‐Walker Circulation with a full‐physics general circulation model using idealized boundary conditions. Our experiments use a doubly‐periodic domain with grid‐spacing of 1, 2, 25, and 100km. We thus span the range from General Circulation Models (GCMs) to Cloud‐system Resolving Models (CRMs). Our model is derived from the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory atmospheric GCM (AM4.0). We find substantial differences in the mock‐Walker circulation simulated by our GCM‐like and CRM‐like experiments. The CRM‐like experiments have more upper level clouds, stronger overturning circulations, and less precipitation. The GCM‐like experiments have a low‐level cloud fraction that is up to 20% larger. These differences lead to opposite atmospheric responses to changes in the longwave cloud radiative effect (LWCRE). Active LWCRE lead to increased precipitation for our GCMs, but decreased precipitation for our CRMs. The LWCRE leads to a narrower rising branch of the circulation and substantially increases the fraction of precipitation from the large‐scale cloud parameterization. This work demonstrates that a mock‐Walker circulation is a useful generalization of radiative convective equilibrium that includes a large‐scale circulation.

Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems
Date Published
February 2021
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