The first multi-model ensemble of regional climate simulations at kilometer-scale resolution part 2: historical and future simulations of precipitation

Pichelli E, Coppola E, Sobolowski S, Ban N, Giorgi F, Stocchi P, Alias A, Beluši? D, Berthou S, Caillaud C, Cardoso RM, Chan S, Christensen OB, Dobler A, de Vries H, Goergen K, Kendon EJ, Keuler K, Lenderink G, Lorenz T, Mishra AN, Panitz H-J, Schär C, Soares PMM, Truhetz H, Vergara-Temprado J
Clim Dyn. 56(11-12), 3581–3602. DOI: 10.1007/s00382-021-05657-4

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This paper presents the first multi-model ensemble of 10-year, “convection-permitting” kilometer-scale regional climate model (RCM) scenario simulations downscaled from selected CMIP5 GCM projections for historical and end of century time slices. The technique is to first downscale the CMIP5 GCM projections to an intermediate 12–15 km resolution grid using RCMs, and then use these fields to downscale further to the kilometer scale. The aim of the paper is to provide an overview of the representation of the precipitation characteristics and their projected changes over the greater Alpine domain within a Coordinated Regional Climate Downscaling Experiment Flagship Pilot Study and the European Climate Prediction system project, tasked with investigating convective processes at the kilometer scale. An ensemble of 12 simulations performed by different research groups around Europe is analyzed. The simulations are evaluated through comparison with high resolution observations while the complementary ensemble of 12 km resolution driving models is used as a benchmark to evaluate the added value of the convection-permitting ensemble. The results show that the kilometer-scale ensemble is able to improve the representation of fine scale details of mean daily, wet-day/hour frequency, wet-day/hour intensity and heavy precipitation on a seasonal scale, reducing uncertainty over some regions. It also improves the representation of the summer diurnal cycle, showing more realistic onset and peak of convection. The kilometer-scale ensemble refines and enhances the projected patterns of change from the coarser resolution simulations and even modifies the sign of the precipitation intensity change and heavy precipitation over some regions. The convection permitting simulations also show larger changes for all indices over the diurnal cycle, also suggesting a change in the duration of convection over some regions. A larger positive change of frequency of heavy to severe precipitation is found. The results are encouraging towards the use of convection-permitting model ensembles to produce robust assessments of the local impacts of future climate change.