Quantification of Internal Variability of the Arctic Summer Atmodphere based on HIRHAM5 Ensemble Simulations

anja.sommerfeld [ at ] awi.de


The non-linear behaviour of the atmospheric dynamics is not well understood and makes the evaluation and usage of regional climate models (RCMs) difficult. Due to these non-linearities, chaos and internal variability (IV) within the RCMs are induced, leading to a sensitivity of RCMs to their initial conditions (IC). The IV is the ability of RCMs to realise different solutions of simulations that differ in their IC, but have the same lower and lateral boundary conditions (LBC), hence can be defined as the across-member spread between the ensemble members. For the investigation of the IV and the dynamical and diabatic contributions generating the IV four ensembles of RCM simulations are performed with the atmospheric regional model HIRHAM5. The integration area is the Arctic and each ensemble consists of 20 members. The ensembles cover the time period from July to September for the years 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2012. This time period is chosen because of the melting sea ice and its impact on the atmospheric circulation and the resulting influence on the IV. The specific years are selected due to their minimum summer sea ice area that was achieved within the years. Based on the mean September sea ice area, the years 2007 and 2012 are defined as low ice years and 2006 and 2009 as high ice years. The investigation of these classified years enables an analysis of a relationship between the sea ice conditions and the internally generated ariability. The ensemble members have the same LBC and differ in their IC only. The different IC are arranged by an initialisation time that shifts successively by six hours. Within each ensemble the first simulation starts on 1st July at 00 UTC and the last simulation starts on 5th July at 18 UTC and each simulation runs until 30th September. The analysed time period ranges from 6th July to 30th September, the time period that is covered by all ensemble members. The model runs without any nudging to allow a free development of each simulation to get the full internal variability within the HIRHAM5. As a measure of the model generated IV, the across-member standard deviation and the across-member variance is used and the dynamical and diabatic processes influencing the IV are estimated by applying a diagnostic budget study for the IV tendency of the potential temperature developed by Nikiema and Laprise [2010] and Nikiema and Laprise [2011]. The diagnostic budget study is based on the first law of thermodynamics for potential temperature and the mass-continuity equation. The resulting budget equation reveals seven contributions to the potential temperature IV tendency. As a first study, this work analyses the IV within the HIRHAM5. Therefore, atmospheric circulation parameters and the potential temperature for all four ensemble years are investigated. Similar to previous studies, the IV fluctuates strongly in time. Further, due to the fact that all ensemble members are forced with the same LBC, the IV depends on the vertical level within the troposphere, with high values in the lower troposphere and at 500 hPa and low values in the upper troposphere and at the surface. By the same reason, the spatial distribution shows low values of IV at the boundaries of the model domain. The diagnostic budget study for the IV tendency of potential temperature reveals that the seven contributions fluctuate in time like the IV. However, the individual terms reach different absolute magnitudes. The budget study identifies the horizontal and vertical ‘baroclinic’ terms as the main contributors to the IV tendency, with the horizontal ‘baroclinic’ term producing and the vertical ‘baroclinic’ term reducing the IV. The other terms fluctuate around zero, because they are small in general or are balanced due to the domain average. The investigation of the spatial distribution illustrates that the horizontal transport term reaches the same magnitude like both ‘baroclinic’ terms, but has a producing and reducing impact on the IV, depending on the location. The comparison of the results obtained for the four different ensembles (summers 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2012) reveals that on average the findings for each ensemble are quite similar concerning the magnitude and the general pattern of IV and its contributions. However, near the surface a weaker IV is produced with decreasing sea ice extent. This is caused by a smaller impact of the horizontal 'baroclinic' term over some regions and by the changing diabatic processes, particularly a more intense reducing tendency of the IV due to condensative heating. However, it has to be emphasised that the behaviour of the IV and its dynamical and diabatic contributions are influenced mainly by complex atmospheric feedbacks and large-scale processes and not by the sea ice distribution. For a detailed understanding of the contributions leading to the IV it is necessary to analyse individual cases of high IV. Therefore, 13 time steps within the four ensembles are selected and examined concerning the relationship between the IV tendency of the potential temperature and the corresponding atmospheric situation. Additionally, a comparison with a second RCM covering the Arctic and using the same LBC and IC is performed. For both models very similar results concerning the IV and its dynamical and diabatic contributions are found. Hence, this investigation leads to the conclusion that the IV is a natural phenomenon and is independent from the applied RCM.

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Sommerfeld, A. (2015): Quantification of Internal Variability of the Arctic Summer Atmodphere based on HIRHAM5 Ensemble Simulations , PhD thesis, University of Potsdam.

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