Sea-breeze dynamics and convection initiation: The influence of convective parameterization in weather and climate model biases

Cathryn E. Birch, Malcolm J. Roberts, Luis Garcia-Carreras, Duncan Ackerley, Michael J. Reeder, Adrian P. Lock, Reinhard Schiemann

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    There are some long-established biases in atmospheric models that originate from the representation of tropical convection. Previously, it has been difficult to separate cause and effect because errors are often the result of a number of interacting biases. Recently, researchers have gained the ability to run multiyear global climate model simulations with grid spacings small enough to switch the convective parameterization off, which permits the convection to develop explicitly. There are clear improvements to the initiation of convective storms and the diurnal cycle of rainfall in the convection-permitting simulations, which enables a new process-study approach to model bias identification. In this study, multiyear global atmosphere-only climate simulations with and without convective parameterization are undertaken with the Met Office Unified Model and are analyzed over the Maritime Continent region, where convergence from sea-breeze circulations is key for convection initiation. The analysis shows that, although the simulation with parameterized convection is able to reproduce the key rain-forming sea-breeze circulation, the parameterization is not able to respond realistically to the circulation. A feedback of errors also occurs: the convective parameterization causes rain to fall in the early morning, which cools and wets the boundary layer, reducing the land-sea temperature contrast and weakening the sea breeze. This is, however, an effect of the convective bias, rather than a cause of it. Improvements to how and when convection schemes trigger convection will improve both the timing and location of tropical rainfall and representation of sea-breeze circulations.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)8093-8108
    Number of pages16
    JournalJournal of Climate
    Issue number20
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


    • Atm/Ocean Structure/Phenomena
    • Convective parameterization
    • Diurnal effects
    • General circulation models
    • Geographic location/entity
    • Maritime Continent
    • Models and modeling
    • Precipitation
    • Sea breezes
    • Variability


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