Articles | Volume 10, issue 7
Model evaluation paper
06 Jul 2017
Model evaluation paper |  | 06 Jul 2017

A multi-diagnostic approach to cloud evaluation

Keith D. Williams and Alejandro Bodas-Salcedo

Abstract. Most studies evaluating cloud in general circulation models present new diagnostic techniques or observational datasets, or apply a limited set of existing diagnostics to a number of models. In this study, we use a range of diagnostic techniques and observational datasets to provide a thorough evaluation of cloud, such as might be carried out during a model development process. The methodology is illustrated by analysing two configurations of the Met Office Unified Model – the currently operational configuration at the time of undertaking the study (Global Atmosphere 6, GA6), and the configuration which will underpin the United Kingdom's Earth System Model for CMIP6 (Coupled Model Intercomparison Project 6; GA7).

By undertaking a more comprehensive analysis which includes compositing techniques, comparing against a set of quite different observational instruments and evaluating the model across a range of timescales, the risks of drawing the wrong conclusions due to compensating model errors are minimized and a more accurate overall picture of model performance can be drawn.

Overall the two configurations analysed perform well, especially in terms of cloud amount. GA6 has excessive thin cirrus which is removed in GA7. The primary remaining errors in both configurations are the in-cloud albedos which are too high in most Northern Hemisphere cloud types and sub-tropical stratocumulus, whilst the stratocumulus on the cold-air side of Southern Hemisphere cyclones has in-cloud albedos which are too low.

Short summary
The simulation of cloud is problematic for general circulation models. As clouds come in differing types, areal coverage, altitude and reflectivity, it is possible for a model to appear to perform well against a particular observational dataset through a compensation of errors. Here we evaluate a model's cloud simulation against a range of observational datasets, globally and across weather–climate timescales, in order to provide a comprehensive assessment.