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Simulations of Stratus Clouds over Eastern China in CAM5: Sources of Errors

Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences, China Meteorological Administration, and LASG, Institute of
Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China

Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences, China Meteorological Administration, Beijing, China

LASW, Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences, China Meteorological Administration, Beijing, China
(Manuscript received 15 May 2014, in final form 4 August 2014)
A previous study by Zhang et al. suggested two biases of the high-resolution configured Community Atmosphere Model, version 5 (CAM5), in simulating stratus clouds over eastern China, including an underestimation of stratus occurrence frequency and a spurious low stratus amount when present (AWP) value
center over the Sichuan basin. In this study, the causes for these two problems are further explored.
The underestimate of stratus occurrence frequency in the model is attributed to the bias in large-scale
ambient environmental fields. This is confirmed by investigating the differences between two climate counterparts. Results suggest that when the environmental fields in the climate ensemble become more realistic,
the simulations of stratus cloud radiative forcing and cloud fraction are enhanced, mainly caused by a corresponding increase in the stratus occurrence frequency. The specific sources of the cloud changes between
these two ambient climates are then investigated.
The presence of a low stratus AWP value center is found to be sensitive to the choice of dynamical core.
This is confirmed by comparing the simulations from two dynamical core counterparts: a default finite-volume
core and an alternative Eulerian spectral transform core. Experiments with these two cores suggest that the
spectral CAM5 is able to alleviate this problem. Correspondingly, the subsiding motions when stratus clouds
occur in the default core are largely suppressed in the spectral core. As a result, the spectral CAM5 has more
midtopped nimbostratus cloud fraction than the default configuration over the Sichuan basin, especially in the
lower levels of the cloud profiles.

1. Introduction
A proper cloud simulation remains an elusive target in
the state-of-the-art atmospheric general circulation model
(AGCM; Jiang et al. 2012; Lauer and Hamilton 2013;
Klein et al. 2013; Stevens and Bony 2013). This is because
clouds are not only governed by large-scale circulations
(e.g., Zhang et al. 1996; Bony et al. 1997; Cess et al. 2001;
Bony et al. 2004) but also affected by many unresolvable
subgrid processes (e.g., Stevens et al. 2001; Stevens 2002;

Corresponding author address: Dr. Haoming Chen, Chinese

Academy of Meteorological Sciences, China Meteorological Administration, 46 Zhongguancun South St., Beijing 100081, China.
DOI: 10.1175/JCLI-D-14-00350.1
! 2015 American Meteorological Society

Wood and Bretherton 2004; Wood 2012) that need to be

In particular, stratus clouds over eastern China (EC)
constitute one of the largest sources of shortwave cloud
radiative forcing (SWCF) simulation errors among models
in phases 3 and 5 of Coupled Model Intercomparison
Project (CMIP3 and CMIP5) (Zhang and Li 2013). These
clouds are found to be tightly correlated with the
orography-induced ambient environment (Yu et al. 2004;
Li and Gu 2006; Zhang et al. 2013b) on the lee side of the
Tibetan Plateau (TP) and Hengduan Mountains/Yungui
Plateau (HDM-YGP), generated primarily due to the
large-scale rising motions downstream. A proper representation of these clouds is crucial to the simulation of
local climate (Zhou and Yu 2006; Zhang et al. 2012).

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Zhang et al. (2014a, hereinafter Z14) showed that an

increase of the horizontal resolution in the Community
Atmosphere Model, version 5 (CAM5), will help to simulate more stratus occurrences because of improved
environmental conditions, especially the dynamical component. On the other hand, several systematic biases hold
for all experiments. The models generally underestimate
stratus occurrence frequencies but overestimate stratus
amount when present (AWP), as compared with the International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (ISCCP;
Rossow and Schiffer 1991) D1 data. With the transition of
resolution from low (38, 28) to high (18, 0.58), CAM5 begins to produce a low AWP value center over the Sichuan
basin, due to overly strong divergent flows at the nearsurface level around the mountains, resulting in subsiding
motions when stratus clouds occur, which go against the
moisture uplifting. It is expected that if these systematic
errors can be eliminated for the high-resolution configurations (at least 18), the model will perform better in
simulating these stratus clouds.
This paper targets a companion analysis to Z14 and
the purpose is twofold. We are to illustrate that the stratus
occurrence frequency in the model is sensitive to the
representation of the ambient environment downstream
of the TP. Better represented large-scale environmental
fields, without changing any configuration in the same
model, can improve the climate simulation of EC stratus
clouds. With this shown, the major sources of contributions can be revealed simultaneously.
On the other hand, Z14 showed that a low stratus
AWP value center over the Sichuan basin only becomes
prominent when the CAM5 is configured at relatively
higher horizontal resolutions (18, 0.58). It remains to
demonstrate that the presence of this low value center is
sensitive to the choice of dynamical core. An alternative
Eulerian (EUL) spectral transform core with same
physics configurations at similar resolutions largely alleviates this problem. The corresponding reasons for the
difference between these two counterparts are then
The remainder of this paper is organized as follows.
Section 2 documents the model, experiment, data, and
method employed in this study. Sections 3 and 4 respectively show the sensitivity of EC stratus clouds to
large-scale environmental fields and two dynamical cores.
A summary and discussion will be presented in section 5.


Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), publicly

available to the scientific community (http://www2.cesm. The version CAM5.1/CESM1.0.4 is
used in this study. The model uses a default finite-volume
(FV) dynamical core (Lin 2004) with a hybrid pressuresigma vertical coordinate (Simmons and Burridge 1981)
that has 30 levels with a top at 2.255 hPa. Compared with
its predecessor (CAM4), almost all of the parameterizations have been replaced except for the deep convection
scheme (Zhang and McFarlane 1995; Richter and Rasch
2008; Neale et al. 2008). These include 1) a new shallow
(Bretherton and Park 2008) convection scheme and a
new moist turbulence scheme (Bretherton and Park 2009)
developed by the University of Washington (Park and
Bretherton 2009); 2) a two-moment cloud microphysics
scheme (Morrison and Gettelman 2008; Gettelman et al.
2008) with a suite of compatible cloud macrophysics
schemes, which handle the cloud fractions, horizontal
and vertical overlapping structures, and the net conversion rates from water vapor to cloud condensates
(Rasch and Kristjansson 1998; Zhang et al. 2003) for the
cloud parameterizations; and 3) an open source Rapid
Radiative Transfer Model for GCM (RRTMG) package
from Atmospheric and Environmental Research (AER)
is used as the radiation module (Mlawer et al. 1997).
More details about the dynamical core and model
physics can be found in the scientific description of
the CAM5 (Neale et al. 2010).

b. Experimental design
The general idea for isolating the sources of model
errors is to produce different counterparts and investigate the sensitivity. Two types of experiments
were conducted for two targets mentioned in section 1.
All experiments enable the Cloud Feedback Model
Intercomparison Project (CFMIP) Observation Simulator Package (COSP; Bodas-Salcedo et al. 2011) with
3-hourly instantaneous output. The configuration for
COSP in CAM5 follows that in Kay et al. (2012). The
active simulators (e.g., CloudSat radar) were run on all
columns, while the passive simulators (e.g., ISCCP)
were run on sunlit columns. Meanwhile, all experiments are forced by the prescribed monthly historical
Hadley Center Sea Ice and Sea Surface Temperature



2. Model, experiments, data, and method

a. Model
CAM5, a component of the Community Earth System
Model (CESM), is an AGCM developed at the National


There are ongoing efforts to investigate the GCM

systematic errors, one of which is to use the numerical
weather prediction (NWP) approach to evaluate the climate models so that model errors can be identified before



longer time-scale feedbacks develop (e.g., Phillips et al.

2004; Rodwell and Palmer 2007; Zhang et al. 2010; Xie
et al. 2012). In such an approach, the GCM is initialized
by the reanalysis data in a weather forecast mode. This
method assumes that the large-scale atmospheric state
fields in the early stage of model integration are relatively
realistic. Therefore, an ensemble of many short period
experiments conducted in this way during a long period
could build a more realistic climate background, which
may improve the simulations of some processes that are
sensitive to large-scale controls, specifically in this study
the simulation of EC stratus clouds.
Z14 showed that CAM5 configured in a horizontal resolution of 0.98 3 1.258 (FV1) resembles a finer grid configuration (0.478 3 0.638; FV05) in many aspects, both of
which have more stratus occurrences than their coarse
counterparts (1.98 3 2.58 and 2.58 3 3.338) and produce a
common low AWP value center over the Sichuan basin
due to similar overly strong divergent flows that cause
subsiding motions when stratus clouds occur. As a representative, FV1 is chosen to investigate the sensitivity of
stratus clouds to the ambient climate environment.
Two groups of experiments were carried out to produce two different climate backgrounds. One group is
referred to as CAMINI, which is started by the initial
conditions that are generated by a previous long period
run (19792009) in Z14 at the first day (0000 UTC) of
each year from 2000 to 2009. The model is run for two
months in this approach to mimic the original model
climate as in the previous long period run. We only focus
on February as a representative of the boreal cold season (NovemberApril).
The other group is referred to as ERANWP, which is
started every three days by the Interim European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF)
Re-Analysis (ERA-Interim) data (Dee et al. 2011) at
0.758 from 31 January to 27 February for each year
(200009), consecutively. The land model is not initialized. Each ERA-Interim-initialized run lasts for 3 days.
Therefore, there are 10 experiments during a 30-day
period (31 January1 March) that continuously span
February for each year, totaling 100 experiments. The
initialization method is to replace the atmospheric state
variables (specific humidity, U and V winds, temperature, and surface pressure) in the yearly initial data used
by CAMINI with those in ERA-Interim data at the
corresponding times, while the liquid/ice cloud condensate amount and number concentration in the model
dynamics are initialized to zero. In a previous ERANWP
test, the liquid/ice cloud condensate amount and number concentration retain the values of the initial conditions in CAMINI. The results from these two ERANWP
experiments are very similar, suggesting that the clouds


in the model will quickly adjust to the ambient environment constrained by the reanalysis data. Therefore, the
initialization of cloud fields (or not) does not alter the
climate results. This can also eliminate the concern that
the uninitialized land model may affect the robustness of
the results.
For an atmospheric model, constraining the model
climate using this frequent reinitialization approach
has a similar though weaker effect compared with the
3D nudging capability (Lo et al. 2008), while it can be
achieved more conveniently than the 3D nudging. Xie
et al. (2012) pointed out that the errors of CAM5 in such
NWP runs usually saturate and become closer to the
climate errors after day-5 hindcast. Thus, an ensemble of
100 three-day experiments can overall produce a more
realistic February climate that has not fully evolved into
climate errors, providing a background for analyzing the
stratus simulations. One may argue that the first day in
the integration should be discarded due to the spinup
problem. It should be pointed out that the spinup time
in a short-period experiment is still a research problem
(e.g., Sun 2005; Sun and Zhang 2008), depending on the
initial atmospheric state in one particular region and the
model itself. Because emphasis is laid upon the climate
results, the noise from the spinup period should not be
deemed as a primary concern. To further confirm the
robustness of the results, we have actually performed
another ERANWP-type experiment, which is initialized
every two days from 31 January to 26 February. The
integration duration is still three days, totaling 140 experiments during 10 years. We then compared the results from the day-1 and day-2 (d1d2) and the day-2 and
day-3 (d2d3) ensembles of this experiment. No significant
result shift is found and there are only some differences in
the local magnitudes of cloud radiative forcing and cloud
fraction. This consolidates the results in this paper that
use all three days to construct a climate ensemble.
In addition, to directly investigate the contributions
brought by the circulation fields, another ERANWP_
CAMUV experiment is carried out. It is exactly the same
as ERANWP, but the U and V winds of the 100 initial
data in ERANWP are set to the values derived from the
CAMINI outputs at corresponding time, rather than
from the ERA-Interim data. Thus, ERANWP_CAMUV
and ERANWP only have differences in their initial U and
V winds. The results of this experiment will be compared
with ERANWP when necessary.
It is also necessary to point out the implications of these
experiments. The purpose of performing CAMINI/
ERANWP_CAMUV and ERANWP experiments is to
produce two climate counterparts with different EC
stratus simulations, one with better stratus performance
(ERANWP) and the other with relatively inferior

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performance (CAMINI/ERANWP_CAMUV). Thus,

by comparing the results between these two climate
counterparts, the key factors that lead to the differences
in the stratus simulations can be revealed and confirmed.
It can answer this question: If a higher stratus occurrence
frequency is desired, what errors should be eliminated
in the model? Hence, the performance of CAMINI/
ERANWP_CAMUV or ERANWP itself is not the
primary focus. The difference between ERANWP and
CAMINI/ERANWP_CAMUV is more important.



Z14 suggested that a low stratus AWP value center

over the Sichuan basin emerges in two high-resolution
experiments (FV1 and FV05) due to overly strong nearsurface divergent flows around the mountains. To find
the source of this problem, an alternative Eulerian spectral transform core is respectively truncated at T106 (;18)
and T266 (;0.458) as the counterparts of FV1 and FV05.
Following the short period run in Z14, T106 and T266 are
integrated from January 2001 to April 2004, and
the first 10 months are ignored to remove the impact of
initial conditions. For this type of experiments, emphasis
is laid upon the whole boreal cold season, consistent with
that in Z14. T106 and T266 share same physics configurations with their FV counterparts. The results of FV1
and FV05 derived from Z14 will be used in this regard.
The EUL core experiments use the same U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) orography data as the one
used by the FV core, which are then interpolated to the
Gaussian grid by a package of tools provided by NCAR.
The initial atmospheric condition data, land fraction data,
and the ocean domain data are all made using these tools.
Meanwhile, it should be stated that in the original EUL
code of CAM5.1/CESM1.0.4, there is a coding mistake in
the subcycle integration procedure (usually used for a
high-resolution experiment to allow multiple splits of the
model dynamics within a uniform large physical time
step). This bug is corrected before performing the experiments and has been confirmed with the designer of
the subcycle procedure (Taylor et al. 2010) via e-mail.
The EUL core is only an experimental dynamical core,
not supported by the NCAR. The corrected code is uploaded to a Gitorious account (
by the first author. T106 uses 5 subcycles and T266 uses
15 subcycles within a uniform physical time step (1800 s)
as in the FV experiments.

c. Data and method

Except for the ERA-Interim data, the 3-hourly ISCCP
D1 data are used for comparing clouds. Because the


ISCCP data cannot detect nighttime cloud types, only

data at 0300 and 0600 coordinated universal time (UTC)
are used, namely 1100 and 1400 Beijing standard time
(BST). Without counting the leap day (29 February),
there are in total 560 times (2 times 3 28 days 3 10 yr)
for the type I experiment, and 1448 times (2 times 3 181
days 3 4 yr) for the type II experiment.
According to the ISCCP classification (Rossow et al.
1996), stratus clouds [cloud optical depth (t) greater
than 3.6, cloud top pressure (CTP) higher than 440 hPa]
in this study refer to a combination of nimbostratus
(680 hPa , CTP , 440 hPa, t . 23), altostratus (680 hPa ,
CTP , 440 hPa, 3.6 , t # 23), stratocumulus (CTP .
680 hPa, 3.6 , t # 23), and stratus (CTP . 680 hPa,
t . 23). Meanwhile, we are also interested in the largescale environmental fields when stratus clouds occur. In
this regard, only data at 0600 UTC/1400 BST are used.
Z14 has shown that only using a few daytime slices within a day for a climate ensemble can still reveal the major
features of stratus clouds, and the results generally correspond to the monthly results of cloud radiative forcing.
The stratus occurrence frequency and stratus AWP are
respectively calculated for the further analysis. The stratus occurrence frequency is defined as a ratio between the
number of stratus occurrence (stratus amount greater
than zero) and total number of samples (560 or 1448) at a
given grid point. The stratus AWP is the composite mean
stratus cloud fraction when stratus clouds occur. The
monthly Clouds and the Earths Radiant Energy System
(CERES) Energy Balanced and Filled (EBAF) data
(Loeb et al. 2009) for radiative fluxes at the top of atmosphere (TOA) are also used to represent the cloud
radiative forcing (CRF), over the period of 200109.

3. Sensitivity of EC stratus clouds to large-scale

environmental fields
a. Changes from CAMINI to ERANWP
Figure 1 compares the February climatological mean
SWCF and net CRF (NCRF) from CERES EBAF,
CAMINI, and ERANWP. Two key regions are selected, a
northwest box (region 1) covering the Sichuan basin (278
328N, 10381088E) and a southeast box (region 2) over
southern China (238278N, 10881188E). In the observation, these two regions are respectively dominated by
nimbostratus and altostratus (region 1) and by stratocumulus and nimbostratus (region 2) during February.
Therefore, the SWCF and NCRF are comparably strong
in both regions (Figs. 1a,b).
In CAMINI (Figs. 1c,d), CAM5 only simulates the
strong SWCF in southern China, while it largely underestimates the one over the Sichuan basin. It is also




FIG. 1. The climatological mean (top) SWCF and (bottom) NCRF in February derived from (left) CERES EBAF, (center) CAMINI, and
(right) ERANWP (W m22).

found that the model largely overestimates the SWCF/

NCRF magnitudes to the southwest side of region 2. In
ERANWP (Figs. 1e,f), the SWCF and NCRF over the
Sichuan basin are strengthened. The averaged SWCF
values in region 1 enhance from 248.6 (CAMINI) to
259.9 W m22 (ERANWP), closer to the CERES EBAF
values (282.8 W m22). The averaged SWCF values in
region 2 are generally the same: 285.7 (CAMINI) and
285.2 W m22 (ERANWP), both a little bit stronger than
that in the observation (282.8 W m22). Meanwhile, the
spatial correlation coefficient of the SWCF distribution
pattern within 208408N, 10081208E also increases from
0.76 (CAMINI) to 0.85 (ERANWP) as compared with
the CERES EBAF data (bilinearly interpolated to the
model grid).
Figure 2 shows the climatological mean stratus amounts
derived from 0300 and 0600 UTC. As shown in the ISCCP
D1 data (Fig. 2a), an evident maximum stratus amount
(greater than 70%) area extends from the Sichuan basin
to southern China. In CAMINI (Fig. 2b), the stratus
amounts in both regions are underestimated, especially

over the Sichuan basin. Moving from CAMINI to

ERANWP (Fig. 2c), increased stratus amounts can be
found in both regions. The spatial correlation coefficient
on the map (Fig. 2) also enhances from 0.88 (CAMINI) to
0.94 (ERANWP).
Figure 3 summarizes the cloud fractions sorted by the
ISCCP nine-type cloud classification to better understand the variations in cloud types. In the Sichuan basin
(Fig. 3a), the most dominant cloud types are nimbostratus and altostratus, comprising up to 59% of total
cloud fraction. In CAMINI (Fig. 3b), nimbostratus and
altostratus cloud fractions are largely underestimated,
while the model simulates more high-topped optically
thin cirrus. In ERANWP (Fig. 3c), the negative error in
the nimbostratus type is reduced but the one in altostratus type increase, offsetting each other. The largest
increase in ERANWP comes from the low-topped optically thick stratus, with a positive bias enhancing from
1.56% (CAMINI) to 8.67% (ERANWP).
In southern China, the dominant cloud types in February
are nimbostratus and stratocumulus, and the low-topped

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FIG. 2. The climatological mean stratus cloud fractions (%) in February derived from (left) ISCCP D1, (center) CAMINI, and (right)
ERANWP at 0300 and 0600 UTC.

stratus and midtopped altocumulus also prevail (Fig. 3d).

In CAMINI (Fig. 3e), the negative bias with the largest
absolute value in the stratus fraction comes from stratocumulus (213.66%), followed by altostratus cloud
(26.85%). The optically thick stratus cloud (nimbostratus and stratus) fractions are overestimated. From
CAMINI to ERANWP (Fig. 3f), the most evident increase in stratus cloud fraction still comes from the lowtopped stratus, with a positive bias moving from 6.21%
(CAMINI) to 12.89% (ERANWP).
Synthesizing the results from two regions, it can be
found that the largest difference between CAMINI and
ERANWP comes from the low-topped stratus fraction.
In CAMINI, the positive biases in the low-topped stratus are respectively 1.56% and 6.21% in the two regions,
as the largest of all optically intermediate and thick
cloud types. In ERANWP, only low-topped stratus cloud
fraction is overestimated among all optically intermediate
and thick cloud types, with a larger positive biases (region 1,
8.67%; region 2, 12.89%) than in CAMINI (region 1,
1.56%; region 2, 6.21%). Therefore, it is primarily the
presence of more low-topped optically thick clouds in
ERANWP that enhances the stratus amounts and contributes to stronger SWCF. The midtopped stratus
clouds are still largely underestimated, showing a systematic bias, although they still have dominant weights
in the simulations as compared with other cloud types.
Figure 4 decomposes the climatological mean stratus
amount into stratus occurrence frequency and stratus
AWP. In the observation, the maximum occurrence frequencies (Fig. 4a) over EC can reach above 90% in both
Sichuan basin and southern China. The AWP (Fig. 4b)
exhibits a similar spatial pattern to the climatological mean
amount (Fig. 2a) with maximums above 70%. CAMINI

largely underestimates the stratus occurrence frequency

(Fig. 4c), especially in the Sichuan basin. While it slightly
overestimates the AWP (Fig. 4d) in most regions, but
produces a low AWP value center over the Sichuan basin.
The increase of stratus amount from CAMINI to
ERANWP mainly results from more stratus occurrences
(Fig. 4e). Evident increases in both southern China and
the Sichuan basin can be found. The spatial correlation
coefficient of occurrence frequency between model
and ISCCP also increases from 0.81 (CAMINI) to 0.86
(ERANWP). On the other hand, the stratus AWP decreases slightly from CAMINI to ERANWP, and the low
value center over the Sichuan basin persists in ERANWP
(Fig. 4f). Meanwhile, although stratus occurrence frequency is largely underestimated in CAMINI and
ERANWP, the simulated radiative forcings are generally
comparable with the observational values (Fig. 1). This is
because the larger stratus AWP and overly strong cloud
optical depth in the simulations can compensate the climatological mean deficit caused by the lower stratus occurrence frequency (Z14).
Changes from CAMINI to ERANWP resemble the
changes from low- to high-resolution experiments in
Z14. In both cases, the stratus occurrence frequencies
increase, confirming that the better represented environmental fields in a higher-resolution GCM are helpful to
the simulation of EC stratus clouds. Meanwhile, as identified in Z14, the low AWP value center is produced because subsiding motions emerge (mainly at 700 hPa) when
stratus clouds occur, decreasing the cloud fraction. This
problem is caused by a biased orographic effect around
the mountains, which generates overly strong divergent
flows at the near-surface level. This paper further shows
that this problem shortly forms after the initialization,



FIG. 3. The climatological mean (0300 and 0600 UTC) and regionally averaged cloud amounts (%) sorted by
ISCCP-nine-type classification in February. (top) Results from ISCCP D1, and the difference between ISCCP
D1 and (middle) CAMINI and (bottom) ERANWP.


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FIG. 4. The climatological mean stratus occurrence frequencies and amount when present in February derived from (left) ISCCP D1,
(center) CAMINI, and (right) ERANWP at 0300 and 0600 UTC (%).

indicating it is subject to some inappropriate configuration

in the model. This will be further investigated in section 4.

b. Factors governing the changes from CAMINI

The analyses in section 3a confirmed that improved
large-scale environmental fields are able to help the
model perform better in simulating the climate features
of EC stratus clouds via enhancing stratus occurrences.
To further understand the primary sources of cloud
changes from CAMINI to ERANWP, we will focus on
several important large-scale influencing factors that
govern the stratus clouds.
Zhang et al. (2013b) documented several favorable
large-scale controls that determine the formation of stratus clouds downstream of the TP. These clouds usually
form under a stable environment accompanied with lowlevel large-scale rising motions, and also subject to the
horizontal circulations at middle and low levels (mainly
the U-wind component at 600 hPa and V-wind component
at 850 hPa).

The thermodynamic component is first examined by

showing the February climatological mean stability (potential temperature difference between 500 and 850 hPa)
at 0600 UTC. As shown in ERA-Interim (Fig. 5a), the
maximum stability can reach above 28 K. CAMINI
(Fig. 5b) simulates an even higher stability maxima center
downstream of the TP than that in ERA-Interim, while
ERANWP (Fig. 5c) simulates weaker intensity. Given
that there are more stratus occurrences in ERANWP, the
result suggests that a more stable environment does not
necessarily lead to more stratus occurrences, consistent
with previous observational and modeling studies (Zhang
et al. 2014b; Z14). Therefore, the dynamical component
may be more important than the thermodynamic one.
For the dynamical conditions, we first compare the
pressure vertical velocity at 700 and 850 hPa (v700 and
v850), respectively. In the observation, the information from v700 alone is usually enough to represent
the low-level large-scale lifting. However, as suggested
in section 3a, the evident increase in stratus clouds
in ERANWP mainly results from the low-topped




FIG. 5. The climatological mean stability (K) over eastern China in February derived from (a) ERA-Interim,
(b) CAMINI, and (c) ERANWP at 0600 UTC/1400 BST.

optically thick stratus (Fig. 3), while less variation is

found from the midtopped nimbostratus cloud. The
model tends to systematically underestimate the midtopped cloud fraction. Therefore, only examining v700
may not fully reveal the difference between CAMINI
and ERANWP, both of which may suffer from common biases.
Figures 6a and 6b show the climatological mean v850
and v700 fields at 0600 UTC. It can be found that largescale rising motions control a large area on the lee side of
the TP. CAMINI (Figs. 6c,d) can also capture this pattern, but the subsiding motions at 700 hPa extending

from the Sichuan basin to its south are too strong.

Figures 6e and 6f show the difference of v850 and v700
between the CAMINI and ERA-Interim experiments
(CAMINI minus ERA-Interim). CAMINI generally
underestimates the rising motion magnitude over continental China, and the errors at 700 hPa are overall
larger than those at 850 hPa.
The differences between ERANWP and CAMINI are
further compared in Figs. 6g and 6h. At 850 hPa, the
rising motions at inland China in ERANWP are generally
stronger than in CAMINI, namely, there is less positive
bias as compared with the ERA-Interim. However,

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FIG. 6. The climatological mean pressure vertical velocity (hPa day21) at

(left) 850 and (right) 700 hPa in February derived from (a),(b) ERA-Interim
and (c),(d) CAMINI at 0600 UTC. Also shown are the differences between
(e),(f) CAMINI and ERA-Interim and (g),(h) ERANWP and CAMINI.





FIG. 7. (a)(c) The climatological mean V-wind component at 850 hPa (m s21) and (d)(f) height of 850 hPa (m) in February derived from
(left) ERA-Interim, (center) CAMINI, and (right) ERANWP at 0600 UTC/1400 BST.

moving from 850 to 700 hPa, the area with negative errors moves northward (278328N, 10581208E), while a
large area extending from the Sichuan basin to southern
China exhibits even larger positive errors. Therefore, the
contributions mainly result from the near-surface level
(850 hPa in this case), which may partially explain why
ERANWP simulates more low-topped stratus.
Besides the large-scale lifting, the low-level horizontal circulations (mainly the southerly component) also
transport the water vapor to the stratus cloud region.
Figures 7ac compare the V-wind component at 850 hPa
(V850). The V850 at the border between the South China
Sea and southern to southwestern China exhibits large
values around 24 m s21 (Fig. 7a), which is largely underestimated by CAMINI (Fig. 7b). In ERANWP (Fig. 7c),
this branch of southerly wind strengthens and becomes
closer to the reanalysis data (Fig. 7a), more favorable to
moisture transport to the stratus region.
The southerly branch of winds in this region corresponds to a low trough centered over the Sichuan basin

(Fig. 7d). The lowest geopotential height values of this

trough reach below 1500 m, occupying the area within
248328N, 10381088E. CAMINI (Fig. 7e) largely overestimates the geopotential height of the low trough, while
ERANWP more reasonably reproduces this low value
area (Fig. 7f), consistent with the improvement in the
V850 field. Together with the stronger large-scale lifting
at 850 hPa in ERANWP, the improved wind fields at the
near-surface level may contribute to more stratus occurrences via transporting more water vapor in the stratus
cloud region.
To confirm whether it is the improved moisture accumulation associated with the better represented circulation fields that leads to the increase of stratus
occurrences from CAMINI to ERANWP, Fig. 8 further
compares the moisture fields respectively at middle levels
(averaged between 500 and 700 hPa) and at 850 hPa in
ERA-Interim, CAMINI, and ERANWP.
At middle levels, the relative humidity (RH) field
in ERA-Interim (Fig. 8a) exhibits a maximum center

1 JANUARY 2015


FIG. 8. The climatological mean 500700-hPa averaged (a)(c) relative humidity (%) and (d)(f) specific humidity
(kg kg21) in February derived from (left) ERA-Interim, (center) CAMINI, and (right) ERANWP at 0600 UTC/1400
BST. (g)(l) As in (a)(f) respectively, but for results at 850 hPa. (m)(o) The differences of (left) specific humidity,
(center) SWCF (W m22), and (right) stratus occurrence frequency (%) between ERANWP_CAMUV and ERANWP




downstream of the TP, with large values above 50%.

Both experiments (Figs. 8b,c) simulate larger RH magnitude in the same region. Generally, the patterns in
both experiments resemble that in ERA-Interim, and
ERANWP has slightly lower RH values. On the specific
humidity field, the variations among different data sources are also small (Figs. 8df).
The difference at 850 hPa is more distinct. In ERAInterim, the maximum RH value (Fig. 8g) can reach
above 80%, extending from the Sichuan basin to its south.
CAMINI (Fig. 8h) underestimates the maximum magnitude (only ;75%), while ERANWP (Fig. 8i) simulates
larger RH magnitudes with maximums closer to that
in ERA-Interim, extending from the Sichuan basin to
southern China. The greater RH values in ERA-Interim
and ERANWP both result from the more abundant
water vapor content. As shown in Figs. 8jl, ERAInterim (Fig. 8j) and ERANWP (Fig. 8l) exhibit a similar specific humidity pattern and comparable magnitude
over mainland China, evidently greater than that in
CAMINI (Fig. 8k).
Given that ERANWP constrains not only the wind
fields, but also the specific humidity field, it is necessary to
investigate to what extent circulation fields can exert an
influence on the moisture fields, and ultimately, the
stratus simulations. For this purpose, the results from
ERANWP_CAMUV are further examined. As shown in
Fig. 8m, when replacing the initial wind fields in
ERANWP with those derived from the CAMINI and
holding all other inputs the same as those in ERANWP,
the magnitudes of specific humidity to the west side of
1158E over the continent become overall lower than
those in ERANWP. As a result, ERANWP_CAMUV
has weaker SWCF (Fig. 8n) and lower stratus occurrence
frequencies (Fig. 8o) than ERANWP at the corresponding
area. Therefore, although the moisture field is constrained
in ERANWP, the circulation fields still play an important
role in enhancing the stratus occurrence frequency.

4. Sensitivity of EC stratus clouds

to dynamical cores
Section 3 has presented the improved climate simulations of EC stratus clouds in a constrained model climate (ERANWP), primarily due to the better represented
ambient environmental fields. A remaining issue is that
the low AWP value center is relatively insensitive to the
climate background (Figs. 4d,f), showing a systematic
problem. In this section, its sensitivity to the choice of
the dynamical core will be demonstrated.
Beginning from the version CAM 3.5, the FV core has
replaced the previous Eulerian spectral dynamical core
as a default configuration (e.g., Gent et al. 2010). Several


studies have compared the performances between these

two cores from particular aspects (e.g., Williamson 2008;
Kent et al. 2012). Since this study does not target evaluating the simulations but only investigating the sources
of model errors, detailed comparisons are not made and
only key differences are shown for our scientific concerns.
Figure 9 portrays the stratus occurrence frequencies
and stratus AWP derived from ISCCP D1 and four experiments (FV1, FV05, T106, and T266). Benefiting from
the enhanced horizontal resolution, the occurrence frequencies in both the Sichuan basin and southern China
increase from FV1 (Fig. 9b) to FV05 (Fig. 9c), closer to
the ISCCP D1 result (Fig. 9a). However, the spurious low
AWP value center over the Sichuan basin, which is not
observed in ISCCP D1 (Fig. 9f), deteriorates with finer
grid (Figs. 9g,h).
The EUL core can also simulate the increase of occurrence frequencies with enhanced resolution (Figs. 9d,e),
but the magnitudes over southern China in T106 and
T266 are overall smaller than those in FV1 and FV05.
Meanwhile, the area with stratus AWP greater than 70%
reduces from FV1/FV05 to T106/T266 (Figs. 9i,j). Kent
et al. (2012) suggested that the semi-Lagrangian transport
scheme (Williamson and Rasch 1989; Williamson and
Rasch 1994) in the EUL core is overall more diffusive
than the flux-form semi-Lagrangian scheme (Lin et al.
1994; Lin and Rood 1996) used in the FV core. This defect
of the EUL core may limit its ability to simulate some
sharp gradients in the real simulation. Zhang et al. (2013a)
also showed that a change of the transport scheme in the
spectral CAM5 will alter some simulated physical fields.
The difference in the stratus simulations between two
cores may provide a new physical evidence that the
difference in the moisture transport schemes can lead to
different climate performance. Certainly, this requires
further exploration.
Although the EUL core is overall inferior to the FV
core in simulating the stratus occurrence frequency, it
has a striking difference from the FV core, namely that
no low AWP value center is found over the Sichuan basin
from the results of two EUL experiments (Figs. 9i,j). In
T106, the stratus AWP is mostly greater than 70% over
the Sichuan basin. In T266, AWP is still mostly above
60%, although it decreases slightly as compared with
T106. Nevertheless, both T106 and T266 have larger
AWP values than their FV counterparts. As a result,
T106 (20.2%) and T266 (23.2%) have more midtopped
optically thick nimbostratus cloud fraction (averaged
within the Sichuan basin) than FV1 (17.5%) and FV05
(19.3%). The midtopped stratus cloud fractions (including nimbostratus and altostratus) in T106 (26.8%) and
T266 (29.7%) are also greater than those in FV1
(22.2%) and FV05 (24.7%).

1 JANUARY 2015


FIG. 9. The cold season mean stratus (left) occurrence frequencies and
(right) amount when present derived from (top)(bottom) ISCCP D1, FV1,
FV05, T106, and T266 (%).





FIG. 10. Composite cloud profiles when stratus clouds occur derived from the model cloud fields, regionally averaged in the Sichuan basin (278328N, 10381088E), for (left) cloud fraction (%) and (right) liquid cloud condensate
amount (CLDLIQ; g kg21). Solid lines are for T106 and T266 and dashed lines for FV1 and FV05; the long horizontal
line indicates the location of 700 hPa. Results are at 0300 and 0600 UTC.

Given the evident difference in the stratus AWP and

midtopped stratus cloud fraction between the FV and
EUL core, it is necessary to investigate the cloud vertical
structures within the Sichuan basin to help us better
figure out the errors. For this purpose, we show the
composite model cloud fields (cloud fraction and liquid
cloud condensate amount) when stratus clouds occur.
One may ask why we do not show the cloud vertical
structures diagnosed from COSP. In CAM5-COSP, there
are four variables containing the vertical dimension, including the contoured frequency by altitude diagram
(CFAD) of radar reflectivity and lidar scattering ratio,
lidar fraction, and lidar cloud occurrences. Since the
major object of this paper, deep optically thick clouds,
will usually attenuate the lidar signal, the lidar results may

not be a very good indicator for our object. The radar is

better in detecting the optically thick clouds, but the
CFAD of radar reflectivity cannot directly provide information regarding the cloud macrophysical property,
especially the stratus cloud fraction, which is a specific
difference between two dynamical cores as suggested
from the aforementioned context. Therefore, jointly diagnosing composite profiles of cloud fraction and liquid
cloud condensate amount can more reasonably show the
vertical structures of stratus clouds, although the cloud
fraction may still contain results from other cloud types.
Figures 10a and 10b show the composite profiles of
cloud fraction and liquid cloud condensate amount averaged in the Sichuan basin, respectively derived from
T106 and FV1. The vertical maximums in the cloud

1 JANUARY 2015


fraction and liquid cloud condensate amount are both

located between 600 and 900 hPa, similar to the observational vertical profiles of stratus cloud fraction (Fig. 4 in
Zhang et al. 2014b). For both variables, there is an evident difference at the lower parts of the profiles, where
the results of FV1 are overall smaller than those in T106.
This suggests that the smaller stratus AWP and less
midtopped nimbostratus cloud fraction in FV1 primarily
stem from the difference in the lower levels (primarily
below 700 hPa) of the cloud profiles. As a result, FV1
diagnosed less midtopped stratus cloud fraction. Corresponding differences can also be found in the results
from FV05 and T266 (Figs. 10c,d).
The reason for differences in the stratus AWP between
FV and EUL core is attributed to the dynamical condition. Figure 11 portrays the composite pressure vertical
velocity at 700 hPa when stratus clouds occur. As shown
by both FV1 (Fig. 11b) and FV05 (Fig. 11c), CAM5
exhibits severe subsiding motions over the Sichuan basin
when stratus clouds occur, opposite to the result from
ERA-Interim/ISCCP D1 (Fig. 11a). This problem is
largely alleviated in T106 and T266. In T106 (Fig. 11d),
rising motions occupy most areas within the Sichuan basin. In T266 (Fig. 11e), although relatively more subsiding
motions occur in the Sichuan basin, the magnitudes are
much smaller than those in FV05. Therefore, the dynamical environment in the EUL core is more favorable for
the increase of the liquid cloud condensate and fraction.
As a result, the EUL core has more ISCCP-diagnosed
stratus AWP and midtopped stratus cloud fraction than
the FV core, especially below 700 hPa as shown by Fig. 10.
As suggested in Z14, the prominent subsiding motions
over the Sichuan basin in the FV core result from the
overly strong near-surface divergent flows in this region.
Figure 12 further compares the divergence field derived
from the model. Two solid vertical lines on each plot
show the locations at 1038 and 1088E, respectively.
Variables in the regions between 1008 and 1088E and
between 1088 and 1208E are meridionally averaged in
the latitude ranges of the Sichuan basin and southern
China, respectively. In the ;18 experiments (FV1 and
T106; not shown), it is not clear enough to discern the
difference from this metric due to the masking of
orography. In the ;0.58 experiments (FV05 and T266),
the orography becomes finer and the difference in the
near-surface divergence field is more evident. As shown
in Fig. 12a, FV05 simulates very strong near-surface
divergent flows within 10381058E. This problem is alleviated in T266 (Fig. 12b). The near-surface convergent
flows in T266 move westward as compared with FV05.
Too strong near-surface divergent flows will cause
moisture dissipation as well as compensating subsiding
motions, unfavorable for the increase of clouds. This


constitutes the key factor that leads to the different vertical motions and stratus AWP over the Sichuan basin
between the FV and EUL core.

5. Summary and discussion

Using a series of sensitivity experiments, this study
investigates two systematic biases in the simulation of EC
stratus clouds in the high-resolution configured CAM5.
The major conclusions are summarized as follows:
1) Results suggest that the climate simulation of EC
stratus clouds is sensitive to the representation of
ambient environment downstream of the TP. This is
confirmed by examining the difference of the simulated EC stratus clouds between different climate
counterparts (CAMINI/ERANWP_CAMUV and
ERANWP). The simulated stratus occurrence frequency is enhanced in the more realistic climate
(mainly low-topped stratus), resulting in more climatological mean stratus cloud fraction and stronger
SWCF. The stratus AWP is relatively insensitive to
the climate background. The results support the conclusion in Z14 that a high-resolution GCM is helpful
in the simulation of EC stratus clouds because it also
provides a more favorable ambient environment due
to the better resolved orography.
2) The cloud changes between two climate counterparts
(CAMINI and ERANWP) result from the dynamical
component and associated moisture fields that primarily lead to the changes in cloud occurrences,
while the stability does not exert a determining influence. The higher stratus occurrence frequency in
ERANWP is mainly caused by larger moisture magnitudes at the near-surface level (850 hPa), which can
be further attributed to the stronger lifting motions
and enhanced southerly winds at the trough front at
850 hPa. A comparison between ERANWP and
ERANWP_CAMUV further proves that a change
of the circulation fields will alter the simulations of the
near-surface moisture, stratus occurrence frequency,
and SWCF.
3) The low AWP value center over the Sichuan basin is
sensitive to the choice of dynamical core. This is
confirmed by comparing the results from two dynamical core counterparts: a default FV core and an
alternative EUL spectral core. The high-resolution
configured spectral CAM5 largely alleviates this
problem due to improved vertical motions, while
the FV core simulates severe compensating subsiding
motions due to the overly strong near-surface divergence. As a result, the midtopped stratus cloud
fractions in T106 and T266 are larger than those in
their FV counterparts, primarily due to more cloud




FIG. 11. Composite pressure vertical speed at 700 hPa (hPa day21, at 0600 UTC/1400 BST) when stratus clouds occur
for (a) ERA-Interim/ISCCP D1, (b) FV1, (c) FV05, (d) T106, and (e) T266.

fractions and liquid cloud condensate amounts at the

lower levels of the cloud profiles. Except for this
particular case (stratus AWP over the Sichuan basin),
the FV core is generally superior to the EUL core in
simulating the stratus occurrence frequency.

The most important conclusion of this paper is that to

eliminate the errors associated with EC stratus simulations, the large-scale environmental fields downstream
of the TP should be properly represented. This study
also reveals several biases that develop in the model and

1 JANUARY 2015



FIG. 12. The divergence field (1025 s21) for (a) FV05 and (b) T266 during the cold season. The vertical black lines
indicate the locations of 1038 and 1088E, respectively. The zero lines are thickened and negative values are contoured
with dashed lines; regions with dots denote orography.

directly affect the simulations of EC stratus clouds. First,

ERANWP still underestimates the stratus occurrence
frequency in most regions. Second, the model seems to
be unfavorable to midtopped stratus development, resulting in the increase of low-topped but not midtopped
stratus from CAMINI to ERANWP. These errors are
connected with each other. Although hindcast experiments can provide a better climate background, the model
quickly adjusts to its inherent climate, which is unfavorable to the formation of stratus clouds after initialization.
Meanwhile, although the spectral CAM5 can alleviate the
low AWP value center problem, a higher-resolution case
(T266) still seems to reduce AWP values over the Sichuan
basin as compared with its coarse counterpart (T106;
Figs. 9i,j). This corresponds to the worse performance in
the vertical motion fields with enhanced resolutions
(Figs. 11d,e), similar to the FV core (Figs. 11b,c). This
may imply some inappropriate settings in the model
physics that probably exacerbate the problem as resolution increases.
Acknowledgments. The authors are grateful to the
editor and three reviewers for their helpful and constructive comments that helped improve the original
manuscript. This paper constitutes a part of the first
authors doctoral dissertation. All data, tools, and model
code used in this study are available from the first author
upon request ( The integration
using the Eulerian dynamical core benefits from a discussion with Dr. Mark Taylor at Sandia National Laboratory about a sub-cycle problem in the original code.
This research was supported by the Major National Basic
Research Program of China (973 Program) on Global
Change under Grant 2010CB951902, National Natural
Science Foundation of China under Grants 41375004 and
41221064, and the China R&D Special Fund for Public
Welfare Industry (meteorology, GYHY201306068).

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