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Resolution effects on regional climate model simulations of seasonal precipitation over Europe

Rauscher, Sara A., Coppola, Erika, Piani, Claudio, Giorgi, Filippo
Climate dynamics 2010 v.35 no.4 pp. 685-711
atmospheric precipitation, climate, climate models, oceans, simulation models, spatial distribution, summer, winter, Great Britain
We analyze a set of nine regional climate model simulations for the period 1961-2000 performed at 25 and 50 km horizontal grid spacing over a European domain in order to determine the effects of horizontal resolution on the simulation of precipitation. All of the models represent the seasonal mean spatial patterns and amount of precipitation fairly well. Most models exhibit a tendency to over-predict precipitation, resulting in a domain-average total bias for the ensemble mean of about 20% in winter (DJF) and less than 10% in summer (JJA) at both resolutions, although this bias could be artificially enhanced by the lack of a gauge correction in the observations. A majority of the models show increased precipitation at 25 km relative to 50 km over the oceans and inland seas in DJF, JJA, and ANN (annual average), although the response is strongest during JJA. The ratio of convective precipitation to total precipitation decreases over land for most models at 25 km. In addition, there is an increase in interannual variability in many of the models at 25 km grid spacing. Comparison with gridded observations indicates that a majority of models show improved skill in simulating both the spatial pattern and temporal evolution of precipitation at 25 km compared to 50 km during the summer months, but not in winter or on an annual mean basis. Model skill at higher resolution in simulating the spatial and temporal character of seasonal precipitation is found especially for Great Britain. This geographic dependence of the increased skill suggests that observed data of sufficient density are necessary to capture fine-scale climate signals. As climate models increase their horizontal resolution, it is thus a key priority to produce high quality fine scale observations for model evaluation.