Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

James White

Second Advisor

Peter Blanken

Third Advisor

Balaji Rajagopalan

Fourth Advisor

Leonard M. Druyan

Fifth Advisor

Gregory Jenkins


This dissertation a) evaluates the performance of the NCAR Weather and Research Forecasting (WRF) model as a West African Sahel regional-atmospheric model and b) investigates the utility of regional modeling to meeting user-needs. This work represents the beginning of an effort to adapt the model as a regional climate model (RCM) for the Sahel. Two independent studies test WRF sensitivity to 64 configurations of alternative parameterizations in a series of September simulations. In all, 104 12-day simulations during 11 consecutive years are examined. Simulated daily and mean circulation results are validated against NASA's Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications (MERRA) and NCEP Reanalysis-2. Modeled daily and total precipitation results are validated against NASA's Global Precipitation Climatology Project (GPCP) and Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) data. Particular attention is given to westward-propagating precipitation maxima associated with transient African Easterly Waves (AEWs). A wide range of 700-hPa vorticity and daily precipitation validation scores demonstrates the influence of alternative parameterizations. The best WRF performers achieve circulation correlations against reanalysis of 0.40-0.60 and realistic amplitudes of spatiotemporal variability for the 2006 focus year, but they get time-longitude precipitation correlations (against GPCP) of between 0.35-0.42. A parallel-benchmark-simulation by the NASA Regional Model-3 (RM3) achieves higher correlations but less realistic spatiotemporal variability. The largest favorable impact on WRF vorticity and precipitation validation is achieved by selecting the Grell-Devenyi cumulus convection scheme, resulting in higher correlations against reanalysis and GPCP than simulations using the Kain-Fritch convection. Other parameterizations have less-obvious impact. A comparison of reanalysis circulation against two NASA-radiosonde stations confirms that both reanalyses represent observations well enough to validate WRF results. A rain-gauge comparison does the same for GPCP and TRMM.