Kilometer-scale climate modeling of precipitation in the Nordic region

Abstract: Future changes in precipitation, in particular extremes, are among the most impact-relevant consequences of a warming climate driven by increases in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. Still, climate model projections of future changes in regional and local precipitation remain uncertain. This is in part due to inabilities of climate models to properly represent important atmospheric moist processes, such as convection, as well as surface properties like complex terrain, primarily since these models are typically run at relatively coarse horizontal resolution. The application of a new generation of kilometer-scale ”convection-permitting” models (CPMs), which treat deep convection explicitly, has led to a step-change improvement in simulating precipitation, especially short-duration local intense events. Therefore, CPMs have proven to be valuable tools in understanding precipitation in present climate and its response to rising global temperatures.Here, the performance of the HARMONIE-Climate (HCLIM) CPM in a regional context has been investigated as well as the added value of this model in comparison with HCLIM run with standard grid resolution of ~10 km. In the present climate, the HCLIM CPM applied over the Nordic region outperforms both the coarser-scale HCLIM and a global reanalysis data set, especially for precipitation on sub-daily time scales in summer when precipitation is often convective. This is corroborated in a study investigating how precipitation is related to large-scale atmospheric circulation, which revealed differences between the HCLIM CPM and its coarser counterpart in convection-dominated circulation types in summer. By improving the frequency and intensity distributions, the wet bias seen in the coarser HCLIM version is reduced by the CPM while also better capturing intense precipitation events, but also improvements in the partitioning between snow and rain in complex terrain.In projections of a future warmer climate, the HCLIM CPM simulates stronger increases in heavy precipitation compared to the coarser-scale HCLIM version, most notably in the warm season, sometimes in excess of the thermodynamically constrained increase in atmospheric moisture content of ~7%/oC, referred to as the Clausius-Clapeyron scaling relation (CC-relation). Applying the HCLIM CPM over European sub-regions with different temperature and humidity conditions reveal consistently stronger increase of sub-daily precipitation at the local scale compared to the scales represented by coarser models. However, the environmental conditions played an important role in the scaling of precipitation with temperature; a scaling larger than the CC-relation was found in regions with relatively moist conditions, while in dry areas the scaling was in line with or smaller than the CC-relation.It is concluded that there is a clear benefit of using HCLIM at the convection-permitting scale, a fit-for-purpose model to investigate precipitation processes and their change following global warming over the Nordic region and elsewhere.