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August 1998

COARE revisited

It's been more than five years since TOGA COARE--the Tropical Ocean and Global Atmosphere Program's Coupled Ocean-Atmosphere Response Experiment--set up shop across the warm pool of the western tropical Pacific. Over 300 scientists convened in mid-July at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder to review the legacy of COARE and to plan how upcoming field and modeling work will build upon the extensive COARE data set.

Jerry Meehl (NCAR) and Steve Anderson (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution), representing the work of seven TOGA COARE scientists, led a session on the afternoon of 10 July to identify the challenges that remain in each of COARE's goal areas. As with the other review talks at the meeting, the material they presented will be part of an upcoming article in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

Jerry led off with a recommendation that could help transfer the large body of knowledge learned during COARE to the global coupled model community. This would entail using such models to make an intercomparison of large-scale coupled processes involved with the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO, a regional-scale mass of tropical convection that moves through the western tropical Pacific every 30 to 60 days). According to Jerry, this work could become part of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project, an activity he chairs as part of the Climate Variability and Predictability program (discussed below).

Steve followed with a straw-person list of several dozen challenges, including

Earlier in the day, NCAR's Mitch Moncrieff considered the legacy of COARE for cloud-resolving models. Noting the wide use of COARE data in such models, Mitch said that COARE has encouraged cloud modelers to examine how clouds interact with larger-scale weather systems. As for uncertainties that remain in cloud-scale modeling, Mitch cited the effects of microphysics on time scales of a few days. For instance, cirrus clouds streaming from the tops of tropical thunderstorms may persist for days after the storms themselves fizzle. "I think ice clouds are a challenge to us for many reasons. . . . We haven't shown what happens to ice clouds when they're 'on their own,' " noted Mitch.

Some research threads from TOGA COARE will be woven into two upcoming projects. One is the massive Global Energy and Water Cycle Experiment (GEWEX), which is conducting a set of nine regional experiments across four continents. (Mitch is a member of the GEWEX Scientific Steering Group, or SSG.) In North America, the GEWEX Continental-Scale International Project is centered over the Mississippi River Basin.

NCAR's Kevin Trenberth updated the group on another ambitious research program, the Climate Variability and Predictability (CLIVAR) program. On 1-4 December, after several years of planning, CLIVAR will be introduced to the public as part of an international meeting of government delegations in Paris. Kevin is cochair of CLIVAR's SSG.

CLIVAR's main goal over the next five years is to advance the understanding of weather and climate variability over the time scales of years to a century. Under that umbrella will be a variety of studies of the El Niño/Southern Oscillation phenomenon, the Asian and Australian monsoons, the North Atlantic Oscillation, and climate variability in general in regions across the globe. Another CLIVAR focus is to improve the detection and attribution of climate change.

CLIVAR serves as the main vehicle for the World Climate Research Program in studying the role of the ocean in the coupled climate system and the use of coupled models for evaluating human-caused climate change. "This is a framework where a lot of COARE activities may continue to find a home," said Kevin.

On the Web

COARE98 Conference home page
CLIVAR home page
GEWEX home page

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Edited by Bob Henson, bhenson@ucar.edu

Prepared for the Web by Jacque Marshall