Idealized Simulations of the Tropical Climate and Variability in the Single Column Atmosphere Model (SCAM): Radiative-Convective Equilibrium

I. Kuan Hu, Brian E. Mapes, Stefan N. Tulich, Richard B. Neale, Andrew Gettelman, Kevin A. Reed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To explore the interactions among column processes in the Community Atmosphere Model (CAM), the single-column version of CAM (SCAM) is integrated for 1000 days in radiative-convective equilibrium (RCE) with tropical values of boundary conditions, spanning a parameter or configuration space of model physics versions (v5 vs. v6), vertical resolution (standard and 60 levels), sea surface temperature (SST), and some interpretation-driven experiments. The simulated time-mean climate is reasonable, near observations and RCE of a cyclic cloud-resolving model. Updraft detrainment in the deep convection scheme produces distinctive grid-scale structures in humidity and cloud, which also interact with radiative transfer processes. These grid artifacts average out in multi-column RCE results reported elsewhere, illustrating the nuts-and-bolts interpretability that SCAM adds to the hierarchy of model configurations. Multi-day oscillations of precipitation arise from descent of warm convection-capping layers starting near the tropopause, eventually reset by a burst of convective deepening. Experiments reveal how these oscillations depend critically on an internal parameter that controls the number of neutral buoyancy levels allowed for determining cloud top and computing dilute convective available potential energy in the deep convection scheme, and merely modified a little by disabling cloud-base radiation (heating of cloud base). This strong dependence of transient behavior in 1D on this parameter will be tested in the second part of this work, in which SCAM is coupled to a parameterized dynamics of two-dimensional, linearized gravity wave, and in the 3D simulations in future study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2021MS002826
JournalJournal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • climate model hierarchy
  • convective parameterization
  • radiative-convective equilibrium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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