EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Atmospheric energy spectra in global kilometre-scale models

Claudia Stephan, Julia Duras, Lucas Harris, Daniel Klocke, William M. Putman, Mark Taylor, Nils P. Wedi, Nedjeljka Žagar, and Florian Ziemen
Claudia Stephan et al.
  • Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Atmosphere in the Earth System, Hamburg, Germany (

Eleven 40-day long integrations of five different global models with horizontal resolutions of less than 9 km are compared in terms of their global energy spectra. The method of normal-mode function decomposition is used to distinguish between balanced (Rossby wave; RW) and unbalanced (inertia-gravity wave; IGW) circulation. The simulations produce the expected canonical shape of the spectra, but their spectral slopes at mesoscales, and the zonal scale at which RW and IGW spectra intersect differ significantly. The partitioning of total wave energies into RWs an IGWs is most sensitive to the turbulence closure scheme and this partitioning is what determines the spectral crossing scale in the simulations, which differs by a factor of up to two. It implies that care must be taken when using simple spatial filtering to compare gravity wave phenomena in storm-resolving simulations, even when the model horizontal resolutions are similar. In contrast to the energy partitioning between the RWs and IGWs, changes in turbulence closure schemes do not seem to strongly affect spectral slopes, which only exhibit major differences at mesoscales. Despite their minor contribution to the global (horizontal kinetic plus potential available) energy, small scales are important for driving the global mean circulation. Our results support the conclusions of previous studies that the strength of convection is a relevant factor for explaining discrepancies in the energies at small scales. The models studied here produce the major large-scale features of tropical precipitation patterns. However, particularly at large horizontal wavenumbers, the spectra of upper tropospheric vertical velocity, which is a good indicator for the strength of deep convection, differ by factors of three or more in energy. High vertical kinetic energies at small scales are mostly found in those models that do not use any convective parameterisation.

How to cite: Stephan, C., Duras, J., Harris, L., Klocke, D., Putman, W. M., Taylor, M., Wedi, N. P., Žagar, N., and Ziemen, F.: Atmospheric energy spectra in global kilometre-scale models, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-1924,, 2022.