A Fine-Mesh Land Approach for General Circulation Models and Its Impact on Regional Climate

Andrea N. Hahmann, Robert E. Dickinson

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Significant land processes occur on spatial scales too fine to be resolved by most current climate models. To address these subgrid-scale processes better, a model is introduced that represents them by a submesh imposed on each atmospheric model grid. A water- and energy-conserving scheme disaggregates atmospheric conditions to the fine-mesh model grid and aggregates surface fluxes back to the atmospheric grid. Results from a multiyear simulation using the fine-mesh model show that, in the Tropics, precipitation over land is sensitive to surface heterogeneities. Although surface temperatures over midlatitude continents are sensitive to subgrid variations in land cover, precipitation there exhibits very little such sensitivity. The simulated climate over tropical Africa during the summer months is drastically altered by the introduction of the fine-mesh model. Central Africa experiences a 22% reduction in precipitation through the period of July–
September in the fine-mesh model simulations. West Africa, a region known for its sensitivity to land surface characteristics, experiences slight increases in precipitation. Analysis of the model simulations shows that different physical mechanisms communicate land surface changes to the atmosphere over central and West Africa.
Over central Africa, the decrease in precipitation is driven mainly by an initial reduction in evaporation that results in decreased midtropospheric condensation and decreased low-level convergence. Over West Africa, on the other hand, the changes in the precipitation field may be related to changes in the distribution of vegetation
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Climate
Pages (from-to)1634-1646
Publication statusPublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

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