The LMDZ4 general circulation model: climate performance and sensitivity to parametrized physics with emphasis on tropical convection
The LMDZ4 general circulation model is the atmospheric component of the IPSL CM4 coupled model which has been used to perform climate change simulations for the 4th IPCC assessment report. The main aspects of the model climatology (forced by observed sea surface temperature) are documented here, as well as the major improvements with respect to the previous versions, which mainly come form the parametrization of tropical convection. A methodology is proposed to help analyse the sensitivity of the tropical Hadley Walker circulation to the parametrization of cumulus convection and clouds. The tropical circulation is characterized using scalar potentials associated with the horizontal wind and horizontal transport of geopotential (the Laplacian of which is proportional to the total vertical momentum in the atmospheric column). The effect of parametrized physics is analysed in a regime sorted framework using the vertical velocity at 500 hPa as a proxy for large scale vertical motion. Compared to Tiedtke’s convection scheme, used in previous versions, the Emanuel’s scheme improves the representation of the Hadley Walker circulation, with a relatively stronger and deeper large scale vertical ascent over tropical continents, and suppresses the marked patterns of concentrated rainfall over oceans. Thanks to the regime sorted analyses, these differences are attributed to intrinsic differences in the vertical distribution of convective heating, and to the lack of self-inhibition by precipitating downdraughts in Tiedtke’s parametrization. Both the convection and cloud schemes are shown to control the relative importance of large scale convection over land and ocean, an important point for the behaviour of the coupled model.