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

Article


Iles, Carley E., Vautard, Robert, Strachan, Jane, Joussaume, Sylie, Eggen, Bernd R. and Hewitt, Chris D.. 2020. "The benefits of increasing resolution in global and regional climate simulations for European climate extremes." Geoscientific Model Development. 13 (11), pp. 5583-5607. https://doi.org/10.5194/gmd-13-5583-2020
Article Title

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

ERA Journal ID123621
Article CategoryArticle
AuthorsIles, Carley E. (Author), Vautard, Robert (Author), Strachan, Jane (Author), Joussaume, Sylie (Author), Eggen, Bernd R. (Author) and Hewitt, Chris D. (Author)
Journal TitleGeoscientific Model Development
Journal Citation13 (11), pp. 5583-5607
Number of Pages25
Year2020
Place of PublicationGermany
ISSN1991-959X
1991-9603
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.5194/gmd-13-5583-2020
Web Address (URL)https://gmd.copernicus.org/articles/13/5583/2020/
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 the 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 in coastal regions where large coastal 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.

Keywordsclimate change; global climate models (GCMs); regional climate models (RCMs); climate extremes; Europe
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020370201. Climate change processes
Byline AffiliationsParis-Saclay University, France
Met Office, United Kingdom
Centre for Applied Climate Sciences
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
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