Convection-Resolving Climate Change Simulations: Intensification of Heavy Hourly Precipitation Events

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 5:30 PM
Nikolina Ban, Juerg Schmidli and Christoph Schar, ETH Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
Reliable climate-change projections of extreme precipitation events are of great interest to decision makers, due to potentially important hydrological impacts such as floods, land slides and debris flows. Low-resolution climate models generally project increases of heavy precipitation events with climate change, but there are large uncertainties related to the limited spatial resolution and the parameterized representation of atmospheric convection. 

Here we employ a convection-resolving version of the COSMO model across an extended region (1100 km x 1100 km) covering the European Alps to investigate the differences between parameterized and explicit convection in climate-change scenarios. We conduct 10-year long integrations at resolutions of 12 and 2km. Validation using ERA-Interim driven simulations reveals major improvements with the 2km resolution, in particular regarding the diurnal cycle of mean precipitation and the representation of hourly extremes. In addition, 2km simulations replicate the observed super-adiabatic scaling at precipitation stations, i.e. peak hourly events increase faster with temperature than the Clausius-Clapeyron scaling of 7%/K (see Ban et al. 2014).

Convection-resolving climate change scenarios are conducted using control (1991-2000) and scenario (2081-2090) simulations driven by a CMIP5 GCM (i.e. the MPI-ESM-LR) under the IPCC RCP8.5 scenario. Comparison between 12 and 2km resolutions with parameterized and explicit convection, respectively, reveals close agreement in terms of mean summer precipitation amounts (decrease by 30%), and regarding slight increases of heavy day-long events (amounting to 15% for 90th-percentile for wet-day precipitation). However, the different resolutions yield large differences regarding extreme hourly precipitation, with the 2km version projecting substantially faster increases of heavy hourly precipitation events (about 30% increases for 90th-percentile hourly events). 

Ban, N., J. Schmidli and C. Schӓr (2014): Evaluation of the convection-resolving regional climate modeling approach in decade-long simulations. J. Geophys. Res. Atmos.,1197889-7907, doi:10.1002/2014JD021478