Articles | Volume 18, issue 8
Research article
18 Apr 2018
Research article |  | 18 Apr 2018

The sensitivity of Alpine summer convection to surrogate climate change: an intercomparison between convection-parameterizing and convection-resolving models

Michael Keller, Nico Kröner, Oliver Fuhrer, Daniel Lüthi, Juerg Schmidli, Martin Stengel, Reto Stöckli, and Christoph Schär

Abstract. Climate models project an increase in heavy precipitation events in response to greenhouse gas forcing. Important elements of such events are rain showers and thunderstorms, which are poorly represented in models with parameterized convection. In this study, simulations with 12 km horizontal grid spacing (convection-parameterizing model, CPM) and 2 km grid spacing (convection-resolving model, CRM) are employed to investigate the change in the diurnal cycle of convection with warmer climate. For this purpose, simulations of 11 days in June 2007 with a pronounced diurnal cycle of convection are compared with surrogate simulations from the same period. The surrogate climate simulations mimic a future climate with increased temperatures but unchanged relative humidity and similar synoptic-scale circulation. Two temperature scenarios are compared: one with homogeneous warming (HW) using a vertically uniform warming and the other with vertically dependent warming (VW) that enables changes in lapse rate.

The two sets of simulations with parameterized and explicit convection exhibit substantial differences, some of which are well known from the literature. These include differences in the timing and amplitude of the diurnal cycle of convection, and the frequency of precipitation with low intensities. The response to climate change is much less studied. We can show that stratification changes have a strong influence on the changes in convection. Precipitation is strongly increasing for HW but decreasing for the VW simulations. For cloud type frequencies, virtually no changes are found for HW, but a substantial reduction in high clouds is found for VW. Further, we can show that the climate change signal strongly depends upon the horizontal resolution. In particular, significant differences between CPM and CRM are found in terms of the radiative feedbacks, with CRM exhibiting a stronger negative feedback in the top-of-the-atmosphere energy budget.

Short summary
Deep convection is often associated with thunderstorms and heavy rain events. In this study, the sensitivity of Alpine deep convective events to environmental parameters and climate warming is investigated. To this end, simulations are conducted at resolutions of 12 and 2 km. The results show that the climate change signal strongly depends upon the horizontal resolution. In particular, significant differences are found in terms of the radiative feedbacks.
Final-revised paper