Articles | Volume 9, issue 4
Methods for assessment of models
04 Apr 2016
Methods for assessment of models |  | 04 Apr 2016

A moist aquaplanet variant of the Held–Suarez test for atmospheric model dynamical cores

Diana R. Thatcher and Christiane Jablonowski

Abstract. A moist idealized test case (MITC) for atmospheric model dynamical cores is presented. The MITC is based on the Held–Suarez (HS) test that was developed for dry simulations on “a flat Earth” and replaces the full physical parameterization package with a Newtonian temperature relaxation and Rayleigh damping of the low-level winds. This new variant of the HS test includes moisture and thereby sheds light on the nonlinear dynamics–physics moisture feedbacks without the complexity of full-physics parameterization packages. In particular, it adds simplified moist processes to the HS forcing to model large-scale condensation, boundary-layer mixing, and the exchange of latent and sensible heat between the atmospheric surface and an ocean-covered planet. Using a variety of dynamical cores of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)'s Community Atmosphere Model (CAM), this paper demonstrates that the inclusion of the moist idealized physics package leads to climatic states that closely resemble aquaplanet simulations with complex physical parameterizations. This establishes that the MITC approach generates reasonable atmospheric circulations and can be used for a broad range of scientific investigations. This paper provides examples of two application areas. First, the test case reveals the characteristics of the physics–dynamics coupling technique and reproduces coupling issues seen in full-physics simulations. In particular, it is shown that sudden adjustments of the prognostic fields due to moist physics tendencies can trigger undesirable large-scale gravity waves, which can be remedied by a more gradual application of the physical forcing. Second, the moist idealized test case can be used to intercompare dynamical cores. These examples demonstrate the versatility of the MITC approach and suggestions are made for further application areas. The new moist variant of the HS test can be considered a test case of intermediate complexity.

Short summary
A moist idealized test case of intermediate complexity for atmospheric general circulation models is presented. The test case is based on the Held-Suarez dry test case and includes a simplified moist physics parameterization. The results are compared to aquaplanet simulations both with and without deep convection parameterizations. The results demonstrate how the moist idealized test can be used to intercompare dynamical cores and diagnose issues from the physics-dynamics coupling mechanism.