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The representation of extratropical cyclones (ETCs) precipitation in general circulation models (GCMs) and a weather research and forecasting (WRF) model is analyzed. This work considers the link between ETC precipitation and dynamical strength and tests if parameterized convection affects this link for ETCs in the North Atlantic Basin. Lagrangian cyclone tracks of ETCs in ERA-Interim reanalysis (ERAI), the GISS and GFDL CMIP5 models, and WRF with two horizontal resolutions are utilized in a compositing analysis. The 20-km resolution WRF model generates stronger ETCs based on surface wind speed and cyclone precipitation. The GCMs and ERAI generate similar composite means and distributions for cyclone precipitation rates, but GCMs generate weaker cyclone surface winds than ERAI. The amount of cyclone precipitation generated by the convection scheme differs significantly across the datasets, with GISS generating the most, followed by ERAI and then GFDL. The models and reanalysis generate relatively more parameterized convective precipitation when the total cyclone-averaged precipitation is smaller. This is partially due to the contribution of parameterized convective precipitation occurring more often late in the ETC life cycle. For reanalysis and models, precipitation increases with both cyclone moisture and surface wind speed, and this is true if the contribution from the parameterized convection scheme is larger or not. This work shows that these different models generate similar total ETC precipitation despite large differences in the parameterized convection, and these differences do not cause unexpected behavior in ETC precipitation sensitivity to cyclone moisture or surface wind speed.


This is the author’s accepted manuscript of an article originally published in Geophysical Research Letters, available at



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