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Volume 22, issue 7 | Copyright
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 22, 3933-3950, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 20 Jul 2018

Research article | 20 Jul 2018

Mean and extreme precipitation over European river basins better simulated in a 25 km AGCM

Reinhard Schiemann1, Pier Luigi Vidale1, Len C. Shaffrey1, Stephanie J. Johnson1,3, Malcolm J. Roberts2, Marie-Estelle Demory1,4, Matthew S. Mizielinski2, and Jane Strachan1,2 Reinhard Schiemann et al.
  • 1National Centre for Atmospheric Science, Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, Reading, UK
  • 2Met Office Hadley Centre, Exeter, UK
  • 3European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, Reading, UK
  • 4Center for Space and Habitability, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland

Abstract. Limited spatial resolution is one of the factors that may hamper applications of global climate models (GCMs), in particular over Europe with its complex coastline and orography. In this study, the representation of European mean and extreme precipitation is evaluated in simulations with an atmospheric GCM (AGCM) at different resolutions between about 135 and 25km grid spacing in the mid-latitudes. The continent-wide root-mean-square error in mean precipitation in the 25km model is about 25% smaller than in the 135km model in winter. Clear improvements are also seen in autumn and spring, whereas the model's sensitivity to resolution is very small in summer. Extreme precipitation is evaluated by estimating generalised extreme value distributions (GEVs) of daily precipitation aggregated over river basins whose surface area is greater than 50000km2. GEV location and scale parameters are measures of the typical magnitude and of the interannual variability of extremes, respectively. Median model biases in both these parameters are around 10% in summer and around 20% in the other seasons. For some river basins, however, these biases can be much larger and take values between 50% and 100%. Extreme precipitation is better simulated in the 25km model, especially during autumn when the median GEV parameter biases are more than halved, and in the North European Plains, from the Loire in the west to the Vistula in the east. A sensitivity experiment is conducted showing that these resolution sensitivities in both mean and extreme precipitation are in many areas primarily due to the increase in resolution of the model orography. The findings of this study illustrate the improved capability of a global high-resolution model in simulating European mean and extreme precipitation.

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Short summary
A new generation of global climate models with resolutions between 50 and 10 km is becoming available. Here, we assess how well one such model simulates European precipitation. We find clear improvements in the mean precipitation pattern, and importantly also for extreme daily precipitation over 30 major European river basins. Despite remaining limitations, new high-resolution global models hold great promise for improved climate predictions of European precipitation at impact-relevant scales.
A new generation of global climate models with resolutions between 50 and 10 km is becoming...