A simple parameterization of sub-grid scale open water for climate models

A. J. Pitman*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    19 Citations (Scopus)


    The effects of small fractions ( < 30%) of open water covering a grid element are currently neglected even in atmospheric general circulation models (AGCMs) which incorporate complex land surface parameterization schemes. Here, a method for simulating sub-grid scale open water is proposed which permits any existing land surface model to be modified to account for open water. This new parameterization is tested as an addition to an advanced land surface scheme and, as expected, is shown to produce general increases in the surface latent heat flux at the expense of the surface sensible heat flux. Small changes in temperature are associated with this change in the partitioning of available energy which is driven by an increase in the wetness of the grid element. The sensitivity of the land surface to increasing amounts of open water is dependent upon the type of vegetation represented. Dense vegetation (with a high leaf area index) is shown to complicate the apparently simple model sensitivity and indicates that more advanced methods of incorporating open water into AGCMs need to be considered and compared against the parameterization suggested here. However, the sensitivity of one land surface model to incorporating open water is large enough to warrant consideration of its incorporation into climate models.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)99-112
    Number of pages14
    JournalClimate Dynamics
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 1991


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