Investigating global tropical cyclone activity with a hierarchy of AGCMs: the role of model resolution
Strachan, J., Vidale, P. L., Hodges, K., Roberts, M. and Demory, M.-E. (2013) Investigating global tropical cyclone activity with a hierarchy of AGCMs: the role of model resolution. Journal of Climate, 26 (1). pp. 133-152. ISSN 1520-0442
To link to this item DOI: 10.1175/JCLI-D-12-00012.1
The ability to run General Circulation Models (GCMs) at ever-higher horizontal resolutions has meant that tropical cyclone simulations are increasingly credible. A hierarchy of atmosphere-only GCMs, based on the Hadley Centre Global Environmental Model (HadGEM1), with horizontal resolution increasing from approximately 270km to 60km (at 50N), is used to systematically investigate the impact of spatial resolution on the simulation of global tropical cyclone activity, independent of model formulation. Tropical cyclones are extracted from ensemble simulations and reanalyses of comparable resolutions using a feature-tracking algorithm. Resolution is critical for simulating storm intensity and convergence to observed storm intensities is not achieved with the model hierarchy. Resolution is less critical for simulating the annual number of tropical cyclones and their geographical distribution, which are well captured at resolutions of 135km or higher, particularly for Northern Hemisphere basins. Simulating the interannual variability of storm occurrence requires resolutions of 100km or higher; however, the level of skill is basin dependent. Higher resolution GCMs are increasingly able to capture the interannual variability of the large-scale environmental conditions that contribute to tropical cyclogenesis. Different environmental factors contribute to the interannual variability of tropical cyclones in the different basins: in the North Atlantic basin the vertical wind shear, potential intensity and low-level absolute vorticity are dominant, while in the North Pacific basins mid-level relative humidity and low-level absolute vorticity are dominant. Model resolution is crucial for a realistic simulation of tropical cyclone behaviour, and high-resolution GCMs are found to be valuable tools for investigating the global location and frequency of tropical cyclones.