08 Mar 2022
08 Mar 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal WCD.

Scale-dependency of extreme precipitation processes in regional climate simulations of the greater Alpine region

Alberto Caldas-Alvarez1, Hendrik Feldmann1, Etor Lucio-Eceiza2,3, and Joaquim G. Pinto1 Alberto Caldas-Alvarez et al.
  • 1Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research (IMK-TRO), Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Karlsruhe, 76131, Germany
  • 2Institute of Meteorology, Freie Universität Berlin (FUB), Berlin, 14195, Germany
  • 3Deutsches Klimarechenzentrum (DKRZ, German Climate Computing Center), Hamburg, 20146, Germany

Abstract. Heavy Precipitation Events (HPEs) are a challenging atmospheric phenomenon with a high impact on human lives and infrastructures. The achievement of high-resolution simulations for Convection Permitting Modelling (CPM) has brought relevant advancements in the representation of HPEs in climate simulations compared to coarser resolution Regional Climate Models (RCM). However, further insight is needed on the scale-dependency of mesoscale precipitation processes. In this study, we aim at evaluating reanalysis-driven climate simulations of the greater Alpine area in recent climate conditions and assessing the scale-dependency of thermodynamical processes influencing extreme precipitation. We evaluate COSMO-CLM simulations of the period 1971–2015, at resolutions of 25 km (RCM) and 3 km (CPM) downscaled from ERA-40 and ERA-interim. We validate our simulations against high-resolution observations (EOBS, HYRAS, MSWEP, and UWYO). In the methodology, we present a revisited version of the Precipitation Severity Index (PSI) useful for extremes detection. Furthermore, we obtain the main modes of precipitation variance and synoptic Weather Types (WTs) associated with extreme precipitation using Principal Component Analysis (PCA). PCA is also used to derive composites of model variables associated with the thermodynamical processes of heavy precipitation. The results indicate a good detection capability of the PSI for precipitation extremes. We identified four WTs as precursors of extreme precipitation in winter, associated with stationary fronts or a zonal flow regimes. In summer, 5 WTs bring heavy precipitation, associated with upper-level elongated troughs over western Europe, sometimes evolving into cut-off lows, or by winter-like situations of strong zonal circulation. The model evaluation showed that CPM (3 km) represents higher precipitation intensities, better rank correlation, better hit rates for extremes detection, and an improved representation of heavy precipitation amount and structure for selected HPEs compared to RCM (25 km). CPM overestimates grid point precipitation rates especially over elevated terrain fostered by the scale-dependency of convective dynamic processes such as stronger updrafts and more triggering of convective cells. However, at low altitudes, precipitation differences due to resolution are explained through the scale-dependency of thermodynamic variables, where the largest impact is caused by differences in surface moisture up to 1 g kg-1. These differences show a predominant north-south gradient where locations north of the Alps show larger (lower) surface moisture and precipitation in CPM (RCM) and locations south of the Alps show larger (lower) humidity and precipitation in RCM (CPM). The humidity differences are caused by an uneven partition of latent and sensible heat fluxes between RCM and CPM. RCM simulates larger emissions of latent heat flux over the Sea (25 W m-2 more), and CPM emits larger latent heat over land (15 W m-2 more). In turn, RCM emits larger surface sensible heat fluxes over land (30 W m-2 more), showing a warmer surface (0.5 to 1 °C) than CPM. These results provide evidence that CPM is a powerful tool for obtaining accurate high-resolution climate information also pointing at the different scale-dependency of dynamic and thermodynamical precipitation processes at high and low terrain.

Alberto Caldas-Alvarez et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on wcd-2022-11', Anonymous Referee #1, 05 May 2022
  • RC2: 'Comment on wcd-2022-11', Anonymous Referee #2, 02 Jun 2022
  • RC3: 'Comment on wcd-2022-11', Anonymous Referee #3, 17 Jun 2022

Alberto Caldas-Alvarez et al.

Alberto Caldas-Alvarez et al.


Total article views: 417 (including HTML, PDF, and XML)
HTML PDF XML Total Supplement BibTeX EndNote
262 141 14 417 25 6 6
  • HTML: 262
  • PDF: 141
  • XML: 14
  • Total: 417
  • Supplement: 25
  • BibTeX: 6
  • EndNote: 6
Views and downloads (calculated since 08 Mar 2022)
Cumulative views and downloads (calculated since 08 Mar 2022)

Viewed (geographical distribution)

Total article views: 402 (including HTML, PDF, and XML) Thereof 402 with geography defined and 0 with unknown origin.
Country # Views %
  • 1
Latest update: 26 Jun 2022
Short summary
High-resolution climate models simulate better extreme precipitation. We investigate the dependency of these improvements with precipitation thermodynamical process. We revisited an index, to detect extreme events and derived statistically, environmental conditions leading to those extremes. We found that high-resolution simulations simulate larger (lower) precipitation at low terrain if moisture transports and instability are likewise larger (lower) than in coarser resolutions.