Using variable-resolution meshes to model tropical cyclones in the community atmosphere model

Colin M. Zarzycki, Christiane Jablonowski, Mark A. Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


A statically nested, variable-mesh option has recently been introduced into the Community Atmosphere Model's (CAM's) Spectral Element (SE) dynamical core that has become the default in CAM version 5.3. This paper presents a series of tests of increasing complexity that highlight the use of variable-resolution grids in CAM-SE to improve tropical cyclone representation by dynamically resolving storms without requiring the computational demand of a global high-resolution grid. As a simplified initial test, a dry vortex is advected through grid transition regions in variable-resolution meshes on an irrotational planet with the CAM subgrid parameterization package turned off. Vortex structure and intensity is only affected by grid resolution and no spurious artifacts are observed. CAM-SE model simulations using an idealized tropical cyclone test case on an aquaplanet show no numerical distortion or wave reflection when the cyclone interacts with an abrupt transition region. Using the same test case, the authors demonstrate that a regionally refined mesh with significantly fewer degrees of freedom can produce the same local results as a globally uniform grid. Additionally, the authors discuss a more complex aquaplanet experiment with meridionally varying sea surface temperatures that reproduces a quasi-realistic global climate. Tropical cyclogenesis is facilitated without the need for vortex bogusing in a high-resolution patch embedded within a global grid that is otherwise too coarse to resolve realistic tropical cyclones in CAM.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1221-1239
Number of pages19
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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