On the representation of precipitation in high-resolution regional climate models

Abstract: Weather and climate models applied with sufficiently fine mesh grids to enable a large part of atmospheric deep convection to be explicitly resolved have shown a significantly improved representation of local, short-duration and intense precipitation events compared to coarser scale models. In this thesis, two studies are presented aimed at exploring the dependence of horizontal resolution and of parameterization of convection on the simulation of precipitation. The first examined the ability of HARMONIE Climate (HCLIM) regional climate model to reproduce the recent climate in Europe with two different horizontal resolutions, 15 and 6.25 km. The latter is part of the ”grey-zone” resolution interval corresponding to approximately 3-10 km. Particular focus has been given to rainfall and its spatial and temporal variability and other characteristics, for example intensity distributions. The model configuration with the higher resolution is much better at simulating days of large accumulated precipitation amounts, most evident when the comparison is made against high-resolution observations. Otherwise, the two simulations show similar skill, including the representation of the spatial structure of individual rainfall areas of primarily convective origin. The results suggest a ”scale-awareness” in HCLIM, which supports a central feature of the model’s description of deep convection as it is designed to operate independently of the horizontal resolution. In the second study, summer season precipitation over the Alps region, as simulated by HCLIM at different resolutions, is investigated. Similar model configurations as in the previous study were used, but in addition a simulation at the ”convection-permitting” 2 km resolution has been made over Central Europe. The latter considerably increases the realism compared to the former regarding the distribution and intensities of precipitation, as well as other important characteristics including the duration of rain spells, particularly on sub-daily time scales and for extreme events. The simulations with cumulus parameterization active underestimate short-duration heavy rainfall, and rainspells with low peak intensities are too persistent. Furthermore, even though the 6.25 km simulation generally reduces the biases seen in the 15 km run, definitive conclusions of the benefit of ”grey-zone” resolution is difficult to establish in context of the increased requirement of computer resources for the higher-resolution simulation.