CR 56:131-145 (2013)  -  DOI:

Effect of model resolution on a regional climate model simulation over southeast Australia

Jason P. Evans1,*, M. F. McCabe2,3

1Climate Change Research Centre and 2School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of New South Wales, Sydney 2052, Australia
3Water Desalination and Reuse Center, Biological and Environmental Sciences and Engineering Division, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Thuwal, Saudi Arabia

ABSTRACT: Dynamically downscaling climate projections from global climate models (GCMs) for use in impacts and adaptation research has become a common practice in recent years. In this study, the CSIRO Mk3.5 GCM is downscaled using the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) regional climate model (RCM) to medium (50 km) and high (10 km) resolution over southeast Australia. The influence of model resolution on the present-day (1985 to 2009) modelled regional climate and projected future (2075 to 2099) changes are examined for both mean climate and extreme precipitation characteristics. Increasing model resolution tended to improve the simulation of present day climate, with larger improvements in areas affected by mountains and coastlines. Examination of circumstances under which increasing the resolution decreased performance revealed an error in the GCM circulation, the effects of which had been masked by the coarse GCM topography. Resolution modifications to projected changes were largest in regions with strong topographic and coastline influences, and can be large enough to change the sign of the climate change projected by the GCM. Known physical mechanisms for these changes included orographic uplift and low-level blocking of air-masses caused by mountains. In terms of precipitation extremes, the GCM projects increases in extremes even when the projected change in the mean was a decrease: but this was not always true for the higher resolution models. Thus, while the higher resolution RCM climate projections often concur with the GCM projections, there are times and places where they differ significantly due to their better representation of physical processes. It should also be noted that the model resolution can modify precipitation characteristics beyond just its mean value.

KEY WORDS: Regional climate model · Model resolution · Southeast Australia · Weather Research and Forecasting · WRF · Precipitation

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Cite this article as: Evans JP, McCabe MF (2013) Effect of model resolution on a regional climate model simulation over southeast Australia. Clim Res 56:131-145.

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