Assessing the Sensitivity of the Tropical Cyclone Boundary Layer to the Parameterization of Momentum Flux in the Community Earth System Model

Journal Article
Monthly Weather Review, vol. 150, iss. 4, pp. 883-906, 2022
Kyle M. Nardi, Colin M. Zarzycki, Vincent E. Larson, George H. Bryan
Abstract Recent studies have demonstrated that high-resolution (∼25 km) Earth System Models (ESMs) have the potential to skillfully predict tropical cyclone (TC) occurrence and intensity. However, biases in ESM TCs still exist, largely due to the need to parameterize processes such as boundary layer (PBL) turbulence. Building on past studies, we hypothesize that the depiction of the TC PBL in ESMs is sensitive to the configuration of the PBL parameterization scheme, and that the targeted perturbation of tunable parameters can reduce biases. The Morris one-at-a-time (MOAT) method is implemented to assess the sensitivity of the TC PBL to tunable parameters in the PBL scheme in an idealized configuration of the Community Atmosphere Model, version 6 (CAM6). The MOAT method objectively identifies several parameters in an experimental version of the Cloud Layers Unified by Binormals (CLUBB) scheme that appreciably influence the structure of the TC PBL. We then perturb the parameters identified by the MOAT method within a suite of CAM6 ensemble simulations and find a reduction in model biases compared to observations and a high-resolution, cloud-resolving model. We demonstrate that the high-sensitivity parameters are tied to PBL processes that reduce turbulent mixing and effective eddy diffusivity, and that in CAM6 these parameters alter the TC PBL in a manner consistent with past modeling studies. In this way, we provide an initial identification of process-based input parameters that, when altered, have the potential to improve TC predictions by ESMs.