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Geoscientific Model Development An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: methods for assessment of models 02 Oct 2019

Submitted as: methods for assessment of models | 02 Oct 2019

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal GMD.

The benefits of increasing resolution in global and regional climate simulations for European climate extremes

Carley E. Iles1, Robert Vautard1, Jane Strachan2, Sylvie Joussaume1, Bernd R. Eggen2, and Chris D. Hewitt2 Carley E. Iles et al.
  • 1Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement, LSCE-IPSL, CEA-CNRS-UVSQ, Université Paris-Saclay, 91198 Gif-sur-Yvette, France
  • 2Hadley Centre, Met Office, Exeter, UK

Abstract. Many climate extremes, including heatwaves and heavy precipitation events, are projected to worsen under climate change, with important impacts for society. Future projections, required for adaptation, are often based on climate model simulations. Given finite resources, trade-offs must be made concerning model resolution, ensemble size and level of model complexity. Here we focus on the resolution component. A given resolution can be achieved over a region using either global climate models (GCMs) or at lower cost using regional climate models (RCMs) that dynamically downscale coarser GCMs. Both approaches to increasing resolution may better capture small-scale processes and features (downscaling effect), but increased GCM resolution may also improve the representation of large-scale atmospheric circulation (upscaling effect). The size of this upscaling effect is therefore important for deciding modelling strategies. Here we evaluate the benefits of increased model resolution for both global and regional climate models for simulating temperature, precipitation and wind extremes over Europe at resolutions that could currently be realistically used for coordinated sets of climate projections at the pan-European scale. First we examine the benefits of regional downscaling by comparing EURO-CORDEX simulations at 12.5 and 50 km resolution to their coarser CMIP5 driving simulations. Secondly, we compare global scale HadGEM3-A simulations at three resolutions (130, 60 and 25 km). Finally, we separate out resolution dependent differences for HadGEM3-A into downscaling and upscaling components using a circulation analogue technique. Results suggest limited benefits of increased resolution for heatwaves, except in reducing hot biases over mountainous regions. Precipitation extremes are sensitive to resolution, particularly over complex orography, with larger totals and heavier tails of the distribution at higher resolution, particularly in the CORDEX vs CMIP5 analysis. CMIP5 models underestimate precipitation extremes, whilst CORDEX simulations overestimate compared to E-OBS, particularly at 12.5 km, but results are sensitive to the observational dataset used, with the MESAN reanalysis giving higher totals and heavier tails than E-OBS. Wind extremes are somewhat stronger and heavier tailed at higher resolution, except at coastal regions where large grid boxes spread strong ocean winds further over land. The circulation analogue analysis suggests that differences with resolution for the HadGEM3-A GCM are primarily due to downscaling effects.

Carley E. Iles et al.

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Carley E. Iles et al.

Carley E. Iles et al.


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Latest update: 20 Feb 2020
Publications Copernicus
Short summary
We investigate the benefits of increased resolution for global and regional climate models for simulating European climate extremes to help inform modelling strategies. Precipitation extremes become heavier and better simulated with higher resolution, wind extremes become stronger, whilst temperature extremes are insensitive, except over mountainous areas. Differences with resolution for the global model appear to come from downscaling effects rather than an improved large scale circulation.
We investigate the benefits of increased resolution for global and regional climate models for...