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Emulation of cloud microphysics in a climate model
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  • W. Andre Perkins,
  • Noah Domino Brenowitz,
  • Christopher S. Bretherton,
  • Jacqueline M Nugent
W. Andre Perkins
Allen Institute for AI

Corresponding Author:waperkins34@gmail.com

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Noah Domino Brenowitz
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Christopher S. Bretherton
Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence
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Jacqueline M Nugent
University of Washington
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We present a machine learning based emulator of a microphysics scheme for condensation and precipitation processes (Zhao-Carr) used operationally in a global atmospheric forecast model (FV3GFS). Our tailored emulator architecture achieves high skill (≥94%) in predicting condensate and precipitation amounts and maintains low global-average bias (≤4%) for 1 year of continuous simulation when replacing the Fortran scheme. The stability and success of this emulator stems from key design decisions. By separating the emulation of condensation and precipitation processes, we can better enforce physical priors such as mass conservation and locality of condensation, and the vertical dependence of precipitation falling downward, using specific network architectures. An activity classifier for condensation imitates the discrete-continuous nature of the Fortran microphysics outputs (i.e., tendencies are identically zero where the scheme is inactive, and condensate is zero where clouds are fully evaporated). A temperature-scaled conditional loss function ensures accurate condensate adjustments for a high dynamic range of cloud types (e.g., cold, low-condensate cirrus clouds or warm, condensate-rich clouds). Despite excellent overall performance, the emulator exhibits some deficiencies in the uppermost model levels, leading to biases in the stratosphere. The emulator also has short episodic skill dropouts in isolated grid columns and is computationally slower than the original Fortran scheme. Nonetheless, our challenges and strategies should be applicable to the emulation of other microphysical schemes. More broadly, our work demonstrates that with suitable physically motivated architectural choices, ML techniques can accurately emulate complex human-designed parameterizations of fast physical processes central to weather and climate models.
06 Jun 2023Submitted to ESS Open Archive
07 Jun 2023Published in ESS Open Archive