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Simulations and Mechanisms of Subtropical Low-cloud Response to Climate Change


Tan, Zhihong (2016) Simulations and Mechanisms of Subtropical Low-cloud Response to Climate Change. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/Z9JS9NC9.


This thesis focuses on improving the simulation skills and the theoretical understanding of the subtropical low cloud response to climate change.

First, an energetically consistent forcing framework is designed and implemented for the large eddy simulation (LES) of the low-cloud response to climate change. The three representative current-day subtropical low cloud regimes of cumulus (Cu), cumulus-over-stratocumulus, and stratocumulus (Sc) are all well simulated with this framework, and results are comparable to the conventional fixed-SST approach. However, the cumulus response to climate warming subject to energetic constraints differs significantly from the conventional approach with fixed SST. Under the energetic constraint, the subtropics warm less than the tropics, since longwave (LW) cooling is more efficient with the drier subtropical free troposphere. The surface latent heat flux (LHF) also increases only weakly subject to the surface energetic constraint. Both factors contribute to an increased estimated inversion strength (EIS), and decreased inversion height. The decreased Cu-depth contributes to a decrease of liquid water path (LWP) and weak positive cloud feedback. The conventional fixed-SST approach instead simulates a strong increase in LHF and deepening of the Cu layer, leading to a weakly negative cloud feedback. This illustrates the importance of energetic constraints to the simulation and understanding of the sign and magnitude of low-cloud feedback.

Second, an extended eddy-diffusivity mass-flux (EDMF) closure for the unified representation of sub-grid scale (SGS) turbulence and convection processes in general circulation models (GCM) is presented. The inclusion of prognostic terms and the elimination of the infinitesimal updraft fraction assumption makes it more flexible for implementation in models across different scales. This framework can be consistently extended to formulate multiple updrafts and downdrafts, as well as variances and covariances. It has been verified with LES in different boundary layer regimes in the current climate, and further development and implementation of this closure may help to improve our simulation skills and understanding of low-cloud feedback through GCMs.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:atmospheric dynamics; climate dynamics; cloud dynamics; cloud-circulation interaction; subtropical marine boundary layer; cloud radiative feedback; large-eddy simulation; turbulence-convection parameterization
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Geological and Planetary Sciences
Major Option:Environmental Science and Engineering
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Schneider, Tapio (advisor)
  • Teixeira, Joao (co-advisor)
Thesis Committee:
  • Seinfeld, John H. (chair)
  • Schneider, Tapio
  • Teixeira, Joao
  • Bordoni, Simona
  • Wennberg, Paul O.
Defense Date:15 June 2015
Non-Caltech Author Email:tzhihong (AT)
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:08192015-043550928
Persistent URL:
Tan, Zhihong0000-0002-7422-3317
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:9107
Deposited By: Zhihong Tan
Deposited On:29 Oct 2015 17:29
Last Modified:18 Nov 2022 18:12

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