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© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 05 Apr 2019

Research article | 05 Apr 2019

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This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP).

Evaluation of Southern Ocean cloud in the HadGEM3 general circulation model and MERRA-2 reanalysis using ship-based observations

Peter Kuma1, Adrian J. McDonald1, Olaf Morgenstern2, Simon P. Alexander3, John J. Cassano4, Sally Garrett5, Jamie Halla5, Sean Hartery1, Mike J. Harvey2, Simon Parsons1, Graeme Plank1, Vidya Varma2, and Jonny Williams2 Peter Kuma et al.
  • 1School of Physical and Chemical Sciences, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand
  • 2National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, Wellington, New Zealand
  • 3Australian Antarctic Division, Kingston, Australia
  • 4Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences and Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, US
  • 5New Zealand Defence Force, Wellington, New Zealand

Abstract. Southern Ocean (SO) shortwave (SW) radiation biases are a common problem in contemporary general circulation models (GCMs), with most models exhibiting a tendency to absorb too much incoming SW radiation. These biases have been attributed to deficiencies in the representation of clouds during the austral summer months, either due to cloud cover or cloud optical thickness being too low. The problem has been the focus of many studies, most of which utilised satellite datasets for model evaluation. We use multi-year ship based observations and the CERES spaceborne radiation budget measurements to contrast cloud representation and SW radiation in the atmospheric component Global Atmosphere (GA) version 7.0 and 7.1 of the HadGEM3 GCM and the MERRA-2 reanalysis. We find that MERRA-2 is biased in the opposite direction to GA (reflects too much SW radiation). In addition, MERRA-2 performs better in terms of absolute SW bias than nudged runs of GA7.0 and GA7.1 in the 60–70° S latitude band. GA7.1 reduces the SO SW radiation biases relative to GA7.0, but significant errors remain at up to 20 W m−2 between 60 and 70° S in the austral summer months. Using ship-based ceilometer observations, we find low cloud below 2 km to be predominant in the Ross Sea and the Indian Ocean sector of the SO. Utilising a novel surface lidar simulator developed for this study, derived from an existing COSP-ACTSIM spaceborne lidar simulator, we find that GA7.0 and MERRA-2 both underestimate low cloud occurrence relative to the ship observations by 18–25 % on average, though the cloud cover in MERRA-2 is closer to observations by about 7 %. Based on radiosonde observations, we also find the low cloud to be strongly linked to boundary-layer atmospheric stability and the sea surface temperature. GA7.0 and MERRA-2 agree well with observations in terms of boundary-layer stability, suggesting that subgrid-scale parametrisations do not generate enough cloud in response to the thermodynamic profile of the atmosphere and the surface temperature. Our analysis shows that MERRA-2 has a much greater proportion of cloud liquid water in the SO in January than GA7.0, a likely key contributor to the difference in SW radiation. We show that boundary-layer stability and relative humidity fields are very similar in GA7.0 and MERRA-2, and unlikely to be the cause of the different cloud representation, suggesting that subgrid-scale parametrisations are responsible for the difference between the models.

Peter Kuma et al.
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Peter Kuma et al.
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Short summary
We evaluate clouds over the Southern Ocean in the climate model HadGEM3 and reanalysis MERRA-2 using ship-based ceilometer and radiosonde observations. We find the models underestimate cloud cover by 18–25 %, with clouds below 2 km dominant in reality, but lacking in the models. We find a strong link between clouds, atmospheric stability and sea surface temperature in observations, but not in the models, implicating subgrid processes do not generate enough cloud in response to these conditions.
We evaluate clouds over the Southern Ocean in the climate model HadGEM3 and reanalysis MERRA-2...