Fundamentals of Radiative Cooling, and Connection to Precipitation Change

Radiative cooling is tightly linked to weather and atmospheric motions, but remains enigmatic due to the complexity of greenhouse gas spectroscopy and radiative transfer. To address this we develop Simple Spectral Models (SSMs) of radiative cooling (figure right) which emulate our most comprehensive models, but are simple enough to answer basic questions such as why the atmosphere cools at roughly 2 K/day around the globe, or why radiative cooling declines sharply in the upper troposphere at roughly 220 K, only to then rebound in the stratosphere. For details, see Jeevanjee and Fueglistaler (2020a).

A key ingredient in the SSMs discussed above is the "Cooling-to-Space" (CTS) approximation, which says that radiative cooling of an atmospheric layer is dominated by that layer's cooling-to-space, with exchange between atmospheric layers being negligible. This approximation has been utilized for decades but not fully understood, and is known to break down in some case like Pure Radiative Equilibrium (PRE, figure left, panel a). We study this approximation in detail, and find that a single parameter γ determines its validity, where γ depends on the vertical profiles of temperature as well as greenhouse gas concentration. As γ decreases, the CTS term dominates relative to the exchange terms, and all terms near the surface are suppressed (figure left, panels b and c). For more, see Jeevanjee and Fueglistaler (2020b).

Global mean precipitation is known to roughly balance global mean radiative cooling, and in simulations both increase with surface warming at a rate of roughly 2% per degree C. The origin of this value is not well understood, however. We explain this value by leveraging a novel invariance which radiative cooling profiles exhibit when calculated using temperature as a vertical coordinate (figure right). This invariance leads to a simple picture in which column-integrated radiative cooling is governed primarily by the depth of the troposphere, when measured in temperature coordinates. For more, see Jeevanjee and Romps (2018). (SI can be found here, and an alternate description of this work here).

Entrainment in Idealized Convection

Understanding entrainment, or mixing between a fluid parcel and its environment, has been a long-standing challenge in atmospheric science. In particular, various scaling laws for entrainment have been proposed but not verified, and the relationship of entrainment to turbulence has not been clarified. We approach these issues by studying idealized, dry (i.e. no moisture) buoyant parcels known as thermals, using direct numerical simulation. We find that fractional entrainment indeed obeys a 1/r scaling as previously postulated (r is the thermal's radius), and also find that entrainment is surprisingly insensitive to Reynolds number, i.e. turbulence (figure right). These results are reported in Lecoanet and Jeevanjee (2019), and animations can be found here.

Follow-up work derives an analytical theory for the dynamics of these thermals in which entrainment is driven not by turbulence but by buoyancy, via a set of dynamical constraints. We confirm the central role of buoyancy through mechanism-denial experiments in which gravity is turned off midway through a simulation, where we find that entrainment is drastically reduced without buoyancy (figure left). These results are reported in McKim, Jeevanjee, and Lecoanet (2019).

Effective Buoyancy

The 'effective buoyancy' of an accelerating parcel is its Archimedean buoyancy B minus an offset, due to the parcel having to push some of the environmental fluid out of its way. This offset grows with parcel aspect ratio, so that wider parcels (at fixed height) accelerate less. Through a novel correspondence with the equations of magnetostatics, we find exact analytical expressions for this offset for idealized parcels with uniform B, and show that these expressions also apply to turbulent, heterogenous parcels (figure left). These expressions describe the `virtual mass' effect for fluid parcels, as well as the compensating subsidence in their environment. See Tarshish et al. (2018) for complete details.

An earlier approach to some of these questions, which emphasizes how this offset of B is enhanced when parcels are near the surface, can be found in Jeevanjee and Romps (2016). An application of these ideas to understanding how simulated convection depends on model grid spacing is given in "Vertical Velocity in the Gray Zone", Jeevanjee (2017), discussed below.

Vertical Velocity in the Gray Zone

Increasing computer power allows global atmospheric models to be run in a `gray zone' of horizontal resolution which permits but does not fully resolve convection. It is unclear where this gray zone ends, however, and how it is affected by the oft-employed hydrostatic approximation.
We address these questions using GFDL's flagship FV^{3} dynamical core, running simulations across the gray zone both with and without the hydrostatic approximation. We find that horizontal resolutions of approximately 100 m are required for convective vertical velocities w_{c} to converge, and that the hydrostatic approximation over-estimates w_{c} at these resolutions by a factor of 2 - 3 (see figure right). These behaviors of w_{c} can be described by simple analytical formulae, which also map out how w_{c} behaves throughout the gray zone.

See Jeevanjee (2017) for details, and here for an animation of cloud-resolving FV^{3}. During the course of this study we also found a striking dependence of the modeled convection on the explicit damping used to dissipate grid-scale noise. This was investigated further in Anber et al. (2018).

Climate Model Hierarchies

Inspired by the WCRP's recent Model Hierarchies Workshop, we attempted to survey and synthesize some of the current thinking on climate model hierarchies. We give a few formal descriptions of the hierarchy (see figure below), and survey its various uses. We also discuss some of the pitfalls of contemporary climate modeling, and to what extent the `elegance' advocated for by Held (2005) has been used to address them. See Jeevanjee et. al. (2017) for more.

Effective Buoyancy, Inertial Pressure, and Convective Triggering

The other force besides effective buoyancy acting on convecting parcels is the inertial (or dynamic) pressure force. In tropical deep convection, most new convection is generated on the edges of 'cold pools' of air produced by evaporation of rain from existing convection. (A large cold pool is visible in the B field in the figure to the right, and the triggered convection along its edge is visible in the w field). It had long been thought that inertial pressure was responsible for this triggering, but the results of Tompkins (2001) suggested that effective buoyancy might also contribute. We helped settle this question by numerically solving the Poisson equations for both effective buoyancy and inertial acceleration in a simulation of tropical convection, showing that indeed the inertial acceleration dominates (bottom row of figure).

See Jeevanjee and Romps (2015) for details.

Convective Self-aggregation

Simulations of tropical convection can spontaneously develop large-scale circulations even in the absence of any large-scale forcing, in a phenomenon known as "self-aggregation". This large-scale circulation partitions the atmosphere into moist and dry regions, as can be seen in the individual panels to the left. Such self-aggregation had previously only been seen in simulations with a domain larger than ~ 300 km on a side, but by disabling cold pools in our simulation, we obtained aggregation at all domain sizes (see figure).

See Jeevanjee and Romps (2013) for details.