Assessment of CMIP5 model simulations of the North American monsoon system

Kerrie L. Geil, Yolande L. Serra, Xubin Zeng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


Precipitation, geopotential height, and wind fields from 21 models from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) are examined to determine how well this generation of general circulation models represents the North American monsoon system (NAMS). Results show no improvement since CMIP3 in the magnitude (root-mean-square error and bias) of the mean annual cycle of monthly precipitation over a core monsoon domain, but improvement in the phasing of the seasonal cycle in precipitation is notable. Monsoon onset is early for most models but is clearly visible in daily climatological precipitation, whereas monsoon retreat is highly variable and unclear in daily climatological precipitation. Models that best capture large-scale circulation patterns at a low level usually have realistic representations of the NAMS, but even the best models poorly represent monsoon retreat. Difficulty in reproducing monsoon retreat results from an inaccurate representation of gradients in low-level geopotential height across the larger region, which causes an unrealistic flux of low-level moisture from the tropics into the NAMS region that extends well into the postmonsoon season. Composites of the models with the best and worst representations of the NAMS indicate that adequate representation of the monsoon during the early to midseason can be achieved even with a large-scale circulation pattern bias, as long as the bias is spatially consistent over the larger region influencing monsoon development; in other words, as with monsoon retreat, it is the inaccuracy of the spatial gradients in geopotential height across the larger region that prevents some models from realistic representation of the early and midseason monsoon system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8787-8801
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 2013


  • General circulation models
  • Model comparison
  • Model evaluation/performance
  • Monsoons
  • Rainfall
  • Seasonal cycle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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