Can climate models capture the structure of extratropical cyclones?
To link to this article DOI: 10.1175/2009JCLI3318.1
Composites of wind speeds, equivalent potential temperature, mean sea level pressure, vertical velocity, and relative humidity have been produced for the 100 most intense extratropical cyclones in the Northern Hemisphere winter for the 40-yr ECMWF Re-Analysis (ERA-40) and the high resolution global environment model (HiGEM). Features of conceptual models of cyclone structure—the warm conveyor belt, cold conveyor belt, and dry intrusion—have been identified in the composites from ERA-40 and compared to HiGEM. Such features can be identified in the composite fields despite the smoothing that occurs in the compositing process. The surface features and the three-dimensional structure of the cyclones in HiGEM compare very well with those from ERA-40. The warm conveyor belt is identified in the temperature and wind fields as a mass of warm air undergoing moist isentropic uplift and is very similar in ERA-40 and HiGEM. The rate of ascent is lower in HiGEM, associated with a shallower slope of the moist isentropes in the warm sector. There are also differences in the relative humidity fields in the warm conveyor belt. In ERA-40, the high values of relative humidity are strongly associated with the moist isentropic uplift, whereas in HiGEM these are not so strongly associated. The cold conveyor belt is identified as rearward flowing air that undercuts the warm conveyor belt and produces a low-level jet, and is very similar in HiGEM and ERA-40. The dry intrusion is identified in the 500-hPa vertical velocity and relative humidity. The structure of the dry intrusion compares well between HiGEM and ERA-40 but the descent is weaker in HiGEM because of weaker along-isentrope flow behind the composite cyclone. HiGEM’s ability to represent the key features of extratropical cyclone structure can give confidence in future predictions from this model.