Date of Award

January 2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Atmospheric Sciences

First Advisor

Xiquan Dong


Global circulation/climate models (GCMs) remain as an invaluable tool to predict future potential climate change. To best advise policy makers, assessing and increasing the accuracy of climate models is paramount. The treatment of clouds, radiation and precipitation in climate models and their associated feedbacks have long been one of the largest sources of uncertainty in predicting any potential future climate changes.

Three versions of the NASA GISS ModelE GCM (the frozen CMIP5 version [C5], a post-CMIP5 version with modifications to cumulus and boundary layer turbulence parameterizations [P5], and the most recent version of the GCM which builds on the post-CMIP5 version with further modifications to convective cloud ice and cold pool parameterizations [E5]) have been compared with various satellite observations to analyze how recent modifications to the GCM has impacted cloud, radiation, and precipitation properties. In addition to global comparisons, two areas are showcased in regional analyses: the Eastern Pacific Northern ITCZ (EP-ITCZ), and Indonesia and the Western Pacific (INDO-WP).

Changes to the cumulus and boundary layer turbulence parameterizations in the P5 version of the GCM have improved cloud and radiation estimations in areas of descending motion, such as the Southern Mid-Latitudes. Ice particle size and fall speed modifications in the E5 version of the GCM have decreased ice cloud water contents and cloud fractions globally while increasing precipitable water vapor in the model. Comparisons of IWC profiles show that the GCM simulated IWCs increase with height and peak in the upper portions of the atmosphere, while 2C-ICE observations peak in the lower levels of the atmosphere and decrease with height, effectively opposite of each other. Profiles of CF peak at lower heights in the E5 simulation, which will potentially increase outgoing longwave radiation due to higher cloud top temperatures, which will counterbalance the decrease in reflected shortwave associated with lower CFs and the thinner optical depths associated with decreased IWC and LWC in the E5 simulation.

Vertical motion within the newest E5 simulation is greatly weakened over the EP-ITCZ region, potentially due to atmospheric loading from enhanced ice particle fall speeds. Comparatively, E5 simulated upward motion in the INDO-WP is stronger than its predecessors. Changes in the E5 simulation have resulted in stronger/weaker upward motion over the ocean/land in the INDO-WP region in comparison with both the C5 and P5 predecessors.

Multimodel precipitation analysis shows that most of the GCMs tend to produce a wider ITCZ with stronger precipitation compared to GPCP and TRMM precipitation products. E5-simulated precipitation decreases and shifts Southward over the Easter Pacific ITCZ, which warrants further investigation into meridional heat transport and radiation fields.