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An Evaluation of Rainfall Frequency and Intensity over the Australian Region in a Global Climate Model

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  • 1 School of Geography and Environmental Science, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  • | 2 School of Mathematical Sciences, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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Abstract

Observed regional rainfall characteristics can be analyzed by examining both the frequency and intensity of different categories of rainfall. A complementary approach is to consider rainfall characteristics associated with regional synoptic regimes. These two approaches are combined here to examine daily rainfall characteristics over the Australian region, providing a target for model simulations. Using gridded daily rainfall data for the period 1997–2007, rainfall at each grid point and averaged over several sites is decomposed into the frequency of rainfall events and the intensity of rainfall associated with each event. Daily sea level pressure is classified using a self-organizing map, and rainfall on corresponding days is assigned to the resulting synoptic regimes. This technique is then used to evaluate rainfall in the new Australian Community Climate and Earth-System Simulator (ACCESS) global climate model and separate the influence of large-scale circulation errors and errors due to the representation of subgrid-scale physical processes. The model exhibits similar biases to many other global climate models, simulating too frequent light rainfall and heavy rainfall of insufficient intensity. These errors are associated with particular synoptic regimes over different sectors of the Australian continent and surrounding oceans. The model simulates only weak convective rainfall over land during the summer monsoon, and heavy rainfall associated with frontal systems over southern Australia is also not simulated. As the model captures the structure and frequency of synoptic patterns, but not the associated rainfall intensity or frequency, it is likely that the source of the rainfall errors lies in model physical parameterizations rather than large-scale dynamics.

* Current affiliation: Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Corresponding author address: Christian Jakob, School of Mathematical Sciences, Monash University, Melbourne, VIC 3800, Australia. Email: christian.jakob@sci.monash.edu.au

Abstract

Observed regional rainfall characteristics can be analyzed by examining both the frequency and intensity of different categories of rainfall. A complementary approach is to consider rainfall characteristics associated with regional synoptic regimes. These two approaches are combined here to examine daily rainfall characteristics over the Australian region, providing a target for model simulations. Using gridded daily rainfall data for the period 1997–2007, rainfall at each grid point and averaged over several sites is decomposed into the frequency of rainfall events and the intensity of rainfall associated with each event. Daily sea level pressure is classified using a self-organizing map, and rainfall on corresponding days is assigned to the resulting synoptic regimes. This technique is then used to evaluate rainfall in the new Australian Community Climate and Earth-System Simulator (ACCESS) global climate model and separate the influence of large-scale circulation errors and errors due to the representation of subgrid-scale physical processes. The model exhibits similar biases to many other global climate models, simulating too frequent light rainfall and heavy rainfall of insufficient intensity. These errors are associated with particular synoptic regimes over different sectors of the Australian continent and surrounding oceans. The model simulates only weak convective rainfall over land during the summer monsoon, and heavy rainfall associated with frontal systems over southern Australia is also not simulated. As the model captures the structure and frequency of synoptic patterns, but not the associated rainfall intensity or frequency, it is likely that the source of the rainfall errors lies in model physical parameterizations rather than large-scale dynamics.

* Current affiliation: Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Corresponding author address: Christian Jakob, School of Mathematical Sciences, Monash University, Melbourne, VIC 3800, Australia. Email: christian.jakob@sci.monash.edu.au

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