Articles | Volume 14, issue 9
Research article
13 May 2014
Research article |  | 13 May 2014

Impacts of increasing the aerosol complexity in the Met Office global numerical weather prediction model

J. P. Mulcahy, D. N. Walters, N. Bellouin, and S. F. Milton

Abstract. The inclusion of the direct and indirect radiative effects of aerosols in high-resolution global numerical weather prediction (NWP) models is being increasingly recognised as important for the improved accuracy of short-range weather forecasts. In this study the impacts of increasing the aerosol complexity in the global NWP configuration of the Met Office Unified Model (MetUM) are investigated. A hierarchy of aerosol representations are evaluated including three-dimensional monthly mean speciated aerosol climatologies, fully prognostic aerosols modelled using the CLASSIC aerosol scheme and finally, initialised aerosols using assimilated aerosol fields from the GEMS project. The prognostic aerosol schemes are better able to predict the temporal and spatial variation of atmospheric aerosol optical depth, which is particularly important in cases of large sporadic aerosol events such as large dust storms or forest fires. Including the direct effect of aerosols improves model biases in outgoing long-wave radiation over West Africa due to a better representation of dust. However, uncertainties in dust optical properties propagate to its direct effect and the subsequent model response. Inclusion of the indirect aerosol effects improves surface radiation biases at the North Slope of Alaska ARM site due to lower cloud amounts in high-latitude clean-air regions. This leads to improved temperature and height forecasts in this region. Impacts on the global mean model precipitation and large-scale circulation fields were found to be generally small in the short-range forecasts. However, the indirect aerosol effect leads to a strengthening of the low-level monsoon flow over the Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal and an increase in precipitation over Southeast Asia. Regional impacts on the African Easterly Jet (AEJ) are also presented with the large dust loading in the aerosol climatology enhancing of the heat low over West Africa and weakening the AEJ. This study highlights the importance of including a more realistic treatment of aerosol–cloud interactions in global NWP models and the potential for improved global environmental prediction systems through the incorporation of more complex aerosol schemes.

Final-revised paper