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Validation of a High-Resolution Regional Climate Model for the Alpine Region and Effects of a Subgrid-Scale Topography and Land Use Representation

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  • 1 Earth System Physics, International Centre for Theoretical Physics, Trieste, Italy
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Abstract

A mosaic-type parameterization of subgrid-scale topography and land use () is applied for a high-resolution regional climate simulation over the Alpine region with a regional climate model (RegCM3). The model coarse-gridcell size in the control simulation is 15 km while the subgridcell size is 3 km. The parameterization requires disaggregation of atmospheric variables from the coarse grid to the subgrid and aggregation of surface fluxes from the subgrid to the coarse grid. Two 10-yr simulations (1983–92) are intercompared, one without (CONT) and one with (SUB) the subgrid scheme. The authors first validate the CONT simulation, showing that it produces good quality temperature and precipitation statistics, showing in particular a good performance compared to previous runs of this region. The subgrid scheme produces much finer detail of temperature and snow distribution following the topographic disaggregation. It also tends to form and melt snow more accurately in response to the heterogeneous characteristics of topography. In particular, validation against station observations shows that the SUB simulation improves the model simulation of the surface hydrologic cycle, in particular snow and runoff, especially at high-elevation sites. Finally, two experiments explore the model sensitivity to different subgrid disaggregation assumptions, namely, the temperature lapse rate and an empirical elevation-based disaggregation of precipitation.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Eun-Soon Im, Earth System Physics, International Centre for Theoretical Physics, Strada Costiera, 11, 34151, Trieste, Italy. Email: eim@ictp.it

Abstract

A mosaic-type parameterization of subgrid-scale topography and land use () is applied for a high-resolution regional climate simulation over the Alpine region with a regional climate model (RegCM3). The model coarse-gridcell size in the control simulation is 15 km while the subgridcell size is 3 km. The parameterization requires disaggregation of atmospheric variables from the coarse grid to the subgrid and aggregation of surface fluxes from the subgrid to the coarse grid. Two 10-yr simulations (1983–92) are intercompared, one without (CONT) and one with (SUB) the subgrid scheme. The authors first validate the CONT simulation, showing that it produces good quality temperature and precipitation statistics, showing in particular a good performance compared to previous runs of this region. The subgrid scheme produces much finer detail of temperature and snow distribution following the topographic disaggregation. It also tends to form and melt snow more accurately in response to the heterogeneous characteristics of topography. In particular, validation against station observations shows that the SUB simulation improves the model simulation of the surface hydrologic cycle, in particular snow and runoff, especially at high-elevation sites. Finally, two experiments explore the model sensitivity to different subgrid disaggregation assumptions, namely, the temperature lapse rate and an empirical elevation-based disaggregation of precipitation.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Eun-Soon Im, Earth System Physics, International Centre for Theoretical Physics, Strada Costiera, 11, 34151, Trieste, Italy. Email: eim@ictp.it

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