The fractal nature of clouds in global storm-resolving models

Geophysical Research Letters American Geophysical Union 48:23 (2021) e2021GL095746


Hannah M Christensen, Oliver GA Driver


Clouds in observations are fractals: they show self-similarity across scales ranging from one to 1000 km. This includes individual storms and large-scale cloud structures typical of organised convection. It is not known whether global storm-resolving models reproduce the observed fractal scaling laws for clouds and organised convection. We compute the fractal dimension of clouds using Himawari satellite data and compare this to global storm-resolving model simulations completed as part of the DYAMOND intercomparison project. We find cloud fields in these simulations are indeed fractal, and reproduce the observed fractal dimension to within 10%. We find the fractal dimension is sensitive to the choice of boundary layer parametrisation scheme used in each model simulation, and not to the convection parametrisation as might have been expected.

Scale‐aware space‐time stochastic parameterization of subgrid‐scale velocity enhancement of sea surface fluxes

Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems American Geophysical Union (AGU) (2021)


Julie Bessac, Hannah M Christensen, Kota Endo, Adam H Monahan, Nils Weitzel

OpenEnsemble 1.0: a boon for the research community

Geoscientific Model Development Discussions Copernicus Publications (2020)

Continuous structural parameterization: a proposed method for representing different model parameterizations within one structure demonstrated for atmospheric convection

Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems American Geophysical Union 12:8 (2020) e2020MS002085


Fh Lambert, Pg Challenor, Neil Lewis, Dj McNeall, N Owen, Ia Boutle, Hm Christensen, Rj Keane, Nj Mayne, A Stirling, Mj Webb


Continuous structural parameterization (CSP) is a proposed method for approximating different numerical model parameterizations of the same process as functions of the same grid‐scale variables. This allows systematic comparison of parameterizations with each other and observations or resolved simulations of the same process. Using the example of two convection schemes running in the Met Office Unified Model (UM), we show that a CSP is able to capture concisely the broad behavior of the two schemes, and differences between the parameterizations and resolved convection simulated by a high resolution simulation. When the original convection schemes are replaced with their CSP emulators within the UM, basic features of the original model climate and some features of climate change are reproduced, demonstrating that CSP can capture much of the important behavior of the schemes. Our results open the possibility that future work will estimate uncertainty in model projections of climate change from estimates of uncertainty in simulation of the relevant physical processes.

The value of initialisation on decadal timescales: state dependent predictability in the CESM Decadal Prediction Large Ensemble

Journal of Climate American Meteorological Society 33:17 (2020) 7353-7370


Hannah Christensen, Judith Berner, Stephen Yeager


Information in decadal climate prediction arises from a well initialised ocean state and from the predicted response to an external forcing. The length of time over which the initial conditions benefit the decadal forecast depends on the start date of the forecast. We characterise this state-dependent predictability for decadal forecasts of upper ocean heat content in the Community Earth System Model. We find regionally dependent initial condition predictability, with extended predictability generally observed in the extra-tropics. We also detect state-dependent predictability, with the year of loss of information from the initialisation varying between start dates. The decadal forecasts in the North Atlantic show substantial information from the initial conditions beyond the ten-year forecast window, and a high degree of state-dependent predictability. We find some evidence for state dependent predictability in the ensemble spread in this region, similar to that seen in weather and subseasonal-to-seasonal forecasts. For some start dates, an increase of information with lead time is observed, for which the initialised forecasts predict a growing phase of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation. Finally we consider the information in the forecast from the initial conditions relative to the forced response, and quantify the crossover timescale after which the forcing provides more information. We demonstrate that the climate change signal projects onto different patterns than the signal from the initial conditions. This means that even after the crossover timescale has been reached in a basin-averaged sense, the benefits of initialisation can be felt locally on longer timescales.