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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Assessing Adaptive Mesh Refinement (AMR) in a Forced Shallow-Water Model with Moisture


Two forced shallow-water flow scenarios are explored in a 2D fourth-order finite-volume dynamical core with adaptive mesh refinement (AMR) to investigate AMR’s ability to track and resolve complex evolving features. Traditional shallow-water test cases are mainly characterized by large-scale smooth flows that do not effectively test the multiscale abilities of variable-resolution and AMR models to resolve sharp gradients and small-scale flow filaments. Therefore, adding forcing mechanisms to the shallow-water system to model key atmospheric processes adds complexity and creates small-scale phenomena. These can serve as foci for dynamic grid refinement while remaining simple enough to study the numerical design of a model’s dynamical core. The first shallow-water flow scenario represents a strengthening, tropical cyclone–like, vortex that is driven by a Betts–Miller-like convection scheme. The second shallow-water test is built upon a barotropically unstable jet with an added Kessler-like warm rain scheme that leads to precipitating frontal zones. The key feature of both tests is that there is significant sensitivity to the model grid while converging (structurally) at high resolution. Both test cases are investigated for a series of uniform resolutions and a variety of AMR tagging criteria. The AMR simulations demonstrate that grid refinement can resolve local features without requiring global high-resolution meshes. However, the results are sensitive to the refinement criteria. Criteria that trigger refinement early in a simulation reproduce the uniform-resolution reference solutions most reliably. In contrast, AMR criteria that delay refinement for several days require careful tuning of the AMR thresholds to improve results compared with uniform-resolution simulations.

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