Exploring the convective grey zone with regional simulations of a cold air outbreak

Paul R. Field*, Radmila Broz̆ková, Ming Chen, Jimy Dudhia, Christine Lac, Tabito Hara, Rachel Honnert, Joe Olson, Pier Siebesma, Stephan de Roode, Lorenzo Tomassini, Adrian Hill, Ron McTaggart-Cowan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


Cold air outbreaks can bring snow to populated areas and can affect aviation safety. Shortcomings in the representation of these phenomena in global and regional models are thought to be associated with large systematic cloud-related radiative flux errors across many models. In this study, nine regional models have been used to simulate a cold air outbreak case at a range of grid spacings (1–16 km) with convection represented explicitly or by a parametrization. Overall, there is more spread between model results for the simulations in which convection is parametrized when compared to simulations in which convection is represented explicitly. The quality of the simulations of both the stratocumulus and the convective regions of the domain are assessed with observational comparisons 24 h into the simulation. The stratocumulus region is not well reproduced by the models, which tend to predict open cell convection with increasing resolution rather than stratocumulus. For the convective region the model spread reduces with increased resolution and there is some improvement in comparison to observations. Comparing models that have the same physical parametrizations or dynamical core suggest that both are important for accurately reproducing this case.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2537-2555
Number of pages19
JournalRoyal Meteorological Society. Quarterly Journal (online)
Issue number707
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2017


  • convection permitting models
  • grey zone


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