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Weather and Climate Dynamics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/wcd-2020-31
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/wcd-2020-31
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  06 Aug 2020

06 Aug 2020

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A revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal WCD.

The importance of model resolution on simulated precipitation in Europe – from global to regional model

Gustav Strandberg1,2 and Petter Lind1,2,3 Gustav Strandberg and Petter Lind
  • 1Rossby Centre, Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute, SMHI, Norrköping, SE-602 19, Sweden
  • 2Bolin Centre for climate research, Stockholm University, Stockholm, SE-106 91, Sweden
  • 3Department of meteorology, Stockholm University, Stockholm, SE-106 19, Sweden

Abstract. Precipitation, and especially extreme precipitation, is a key climate variable as it effects large parts of society. It is difficult to simulate in a climate model because of its large variability in time and space. This study investigates the importance of model resolution on the simulated precipitation in Europe for a wide range of climate model ensembles: from global climate models (GCM) at horizontal resolution of around 300 km to regional climate models (RCM) at horizontal resolution of 12.5 km. The aim is to investigate the differences between models and model ensembles, but also to evaluate their performance compared to gridded observations from E-OBS. Model resolution has a clear effect on precipitation. Generally, extreme precipitation is more intense and more frequent in high-resolution models compared to low-resolution models. Models of low resolution tend to underestimate intense precipitation. This is improved in high-resolution simulations, but there is a risk that high resolution models overestimate precipitation. This effect is seen in all ensembles, and GCMs and RCMs of similar resolution give similar results. The number of precipitation days, which is more governed by large-scale atmospheric flow, is not dependent on model resolution, while the number of days with heavy precipitation is. The difference between different models is often larger than between the low- and high-resolution versions of the same model, which makes it difficult to quantify the improvement. In this sense the quality of an ensemble is depending more on the models it consists of rather than the average resolution of the ensemble. Furthermore, the difference in simulated precipitation between an RCM and the driving GCM depend more on the choice of RCM and less on the down-scaling itself; as different RCMs driven by the same GCM may give different results. The results presented here are in line with previous similar studies but this is the first time an analysis like this is done across such relatively large model ensembles of different resolutions, and with a method studying all parts of the precipitation distribution.

Gustav Strandberg and Petter Lind

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Gustav Strandberg and Petter Lind

Gustav Strandberg and Petter Lind

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Latest update: 03 Dec 2020
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Short summary
Precipitation is a key climate variable with large impact on society, but also difficult to simulate as it depends largely on temporal and spatial scales. We look here on the effect of model resolution on precipitation in Europe, from coarse scale global model to small scale regional models. Higher resolution improves simulated precipitation generally, bu individual models may over- or underestimate precipitation even at higher resolution.
Precipitation is a key climate variable with large impact on society, but also difficult to...
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