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The Influence of Embedded Explicit Convection on Simulations of the West African Monsoon

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September 6, 2012
Rachel McCrary
Hosted by Dave Randall (advisor), Sue van den Heever, Scott Denning, Michele Betsill (Political Science)


The simulation of the West African monsoon is examined in two coupled general circulation models (CGCMs). The first model is the standard Community Climate System Model (CCSM) which uses traditional parameterizations to represent convective processes. The second model is the superparameterized-CCSM (SP- CCSM), in which convective parameterizations have been replaced by embedding a two-dimensional cloud resolving model into each gridbox. Superparameterization is intended to improve simulation of the complex multiscale interactions that occur between the large-scale environment and clouds.

I analyze key features of West African climate in both models including: the mean annual cycle of the monsoon, African easterly wave (AEW) activity and dynamics, and the intraseasonal modulation of precipitation. Adding superparameterization improves the position and intensity of the summer maximum in precipitation which is shifted from over the Gulf of Guinea in CCSM (not realistic), to over the continent in SP- CCSM. AEWs and their relationship with convection are also improved in the SP-CCSM: In the standard model, little to no easterly wave activity occurs over West Africa, and the relationship with convection is tenuous at best. SP-CCSM on the other hand produces strong AEWs over the region that exhibit similar horizontal and vertical structures to observations. However, AEWs in SP-CCSM are strongly coupled to convection, more so than is supported by observations. An examination of the energetics of the simulated AEWs suggests that convection drives the generation and propagation the waves in SP-CCSM. Consistent with observations, intraseasonal variations in West African precipitation in SP-CCSM appear to be linked to variations in convection in the Indo-Pacific region corresponding with the MJO and the Indian monsoon. Because of these physically-realistic relationships, SP-CCSM has potential to deepen our understanding of the teleconnections between the MJO and West Africa, helping to improve seasonal rainfall forecasts.