AbstractRepresenting the West African monsoon (WAM) is a major challenge in climate modeling because of the complex interaction between local and large-scale mechanisms. This study focuses on the representation of a key aspect of West African climate, namely the Saharan heat low (SHL), in 22 global climate models from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) multimodel dataset. Comparison of the CMIP5 simulations with reanalyses shows large biases in the strength and location of the mean SHL. CMIP5 models tend to develop weaker climatological heat lows than the reanalyses and place them too far southwest. Models that place the climatological heat low farther to the north produce more mean precipitation across the Sahel, while models that place the heat low farther to the east produce stronger African easterly wave (AEW) activity. These mean-state biases are seen in model ensembles with both coupled and fixed sea surface temperatures (SSTs). The importance of SSTs on West African climate variability is well documented, but this research suggests SSTs are secondary to atmospheric biases for understanding the climatological SHL bias. SHL biases are correlated across the models to local radiative terms, large-scale tropical precipitation, and large-scale pressure and wind across the Atlantic, suggesting that local mechanisms that control the SHL may be connected to climate model biases at a much larger scale.
Journal of Climate – American Meteorological Society
Published: Apr 12, 2017
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