Stochastic and deterministic multicloud parameterizations for tropical convection

Yevgeniy Frenkel, Andrew J. Majda, Boualem Khouider

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite recent advances in supercomputing, current general circulation models poorly represent the variability associated with organized tropical convection. In a recent study, the authors have shown, in the context of a paradigm two baroclinic mode system, that a stochastic multicloud convective parameterization based on three cloud types (congestus, deep and stratiform) can be used to improve the variability and the dynamical structure of tropical convection. Here, the stochastic multicloud model is modified with a lag type stratiform closure and augmented with an explicit mechanism for congestus detrainment moistening. These modifications improve the representation of intermittent coherent structures such as synoptic and mesoscale convective systems. Moreover, the new stratiform-lag closure allows for increased robustness of the coherent features of the model with respect to the amount of stochastic noise and leading to a multi-scale organization of slowly moving waves envelopes in which short-lived and chaotic convective events persist. Congestus cloud decks dominate the suppressed-dry phase of the wave envelopes. The simulations with the new closure have a higher amount of stochastic noise and result in a Walker type circulation with realistic mean and coherent variability which surpasses results of previous deterministic and stochastic multicloud models in the same parameter regime. Further, deterministic mean field limit equations (DMFLE) for the stochastic multicloud model are considered. Aside from providing a link to the deterministic multicloud parameterization, the DMFLE allow a judicious way of determining the amount of deterministic and stochastic "chaos" in the system. It is shown that with the old stratiform heating closure, the stochastic process accounts for most of the chaotic behavior. The simulations with the new stratiform heating closure exhibit a mixture of stochastic and deterministic chaos. The highly chaotic dynamics in the simulations with congestus detrainment mechanism is due to the strongly nonlinear and numerically stiff deterministic dynamics. In the latter two cases, the DMFLE can be viewed as a "standalone" parameterization, which is capable of capturing some dynamical features of the stochastic parameterization. Furthermore, it is shown that, in spatially extended simulations, the stochastic multicloud model can capture qualitatively two local statistical features of the observations: long and short auto-correlation times of moisture and precipitation, respectively and the approximate power-law in the probability density of precipitation event size for large precipitation events. The latter feature is not reproduced in the column simulations. This fact underscores the importance of gravity waves and large scale moisture convergence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1527-1551
Number of pages25
JournalClimate Dynamics
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - Sep 2013


  • Convectively coupled waves
  • Multicloud models
  • Stochastic convective parameterization
  • Tropical atmospheric dynamics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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