Field significance of performance measures in the context of regional climate model evaluation. Part 2: precipitation

Theoretical and Applied Climatology | Ivanov et al. [2017]

Abstract

A new approach for rigorous spatial analysis of the downscaling performance of regional climate model (RCM) simulations is introduced. It is based on a multiple comparison of the local tests at the grid cells and is also known as ‘field’ or ‘global’ significance. The block length for the local resampling tests is precisely determined to adequately account for the time series structure. New performance measures for estimating the added value of downscaled data relative to the large-scale forcing fields are developed. The methodology is exemplarily applied to a standard EURO-CORDEX hindcast simulation with the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model coupled with the land surface model NOAH at 0.11 grid resolution. Daily precipitation climatology for the 1990–2009 period is analysed for Germany for winter and summer in comparison with high-resolution gridded observations from the German Weather Service. The field significance test controls the proportion of falsely rejected local tests in a meaningful way and is robust to spatial dependence. Hence, the spatial patterns of the statistically significant local tests are also meaningful. We interpret them from a process-oriented perspective. While the downscaled precipitation distributions are statistically indistinguishable from the observed ones in most regions in summer, the biases of some distribution characteristics are significant over large areas in winter. WRF-NOAH generates appropriate stationary fine-scale climate features in the daily precipitation field over regions of complex topography in both seasons and appropriate transient fine-scale features almost everywhere in summer. As the added value of global climate model (GCM)-driven simulations cannot be smaller than this perfect-boundary estimate, this work demonstrates in a rigorous manner the clear additional value of dynamical downscaling over global climate simulations. The evaluation methodology has a broad spectrum of applicability as it is distribution-free, robust to spatial dependence, and accounts for time series structure.

Full text can be found here.

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