Diabatic heating profiles in recent global reanalyses

Jian Ling, Chidong Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Diabatic heating profiles are extremely important to the atmospheric circulation in the tropics and therefore to the earth's energy and hydrological cycles. However, their global structures are poorly known because of limited information from in situ observations. Some modern global reanalyses provide the temperature tendency from the physical processes. Their proper applications require an assessment of their accuracy and uncertainties. In this study, diabatic heating profiles from three recent global reanalyses [ECMWF Interim Re-Analysis (ERA-Interim), Climate Forecast System Reanalysis (CFSR), and Modern Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications (MERRA)] are compared to those derived from currently available sounding observations in the tropics and to each other in the absence of the observations. Diabatic heating profiles produced by the reanalyses match well with those based on sounding observations only at some locations. The three reanalyses agree with each other better in the extratropics, where large-scale condensation dominates the precipitation process in data assimilation models, than in the tropics, where cumulus parameterization dominates. In the tropics, they only agree with each other in gross features, such as the contrast between the ITCZs over different oceans. Their largest disagreement is the number and level of heating peaks in the tropics. They may produce a single, double, or triple heating peak at a given location. It is argued that cumulus parameterization cannot be the sole source of the disagreement. Implications of such disagreement are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3307-3325
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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