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Does Quantile Mapping of Simulated Precipitation Correct for Biases in Transition Probabilities and Spell Lengths?

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  • 1 Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
  • 2 Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zurich, and Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology MeteoSwiss, Zurich, Switzerland
  • 3 Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
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Abstract

Climate impact studies constitute the basis for the formulation of adaptation strategies. Usually such assessments apply statistically postprocessed output of climate model projections to force impact models. Increasingly, time series with daily resolution are used, which require high consistency, for instance with respect to transition probabilities (TPs) between wet and dry days and spell durations. However, both climate models and commonly applied statistical tools have considerable uncertainties and drawbacks. This paper compares the ability of 1) raw regional climate model (RCM) output, 2) bias-corrected RCM output, and 3) a conventional weather generator (WG) that has been calibrated to match observed TPs to simulate the sequence of dry, wet, and very wet days at a set of long-term weather stations across Switzerland. The study finds systematic biases in TPs and spell lengths for raw RCM output, but a substantial improvement after bias correction using the deterministic quantile mapping technique. For the region considered, bias-corrected climate model output agrees well with observations in terms of TPs as well as dry and wet spell durations. For the majority of cases (models and stations) bias-corrected climate model output is similar in skill to a simple Markov chain stochastic weather generator. There is strong evidence that bias-corrected climate model simulations capture the atmospheric event sequence more realistically than a simple WG.

Corresponding author address: Jan Rajczak, Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zurich, Universitätstrasse 16, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland. E-mail: jan.rajczak@env.ethz.ch

Abstract

Climate impact studies constitute the basis for the formulation of adaptation strategies. Usually such assessments apply statistically postprocessed output of climate model projections to force impact models. Increasingly, time series with daily resolution are used, which require high consistency, for instance with respect to transition probabilities (TPs) between wet and dry days and spell durations. However, both climate models and commonly applied statistical tools have considerable uncertainties and drawbacks. This paper compares the ability of 1) raw regional climate model (RCM) output, 2) bias-corrected RCM output, and 3) a conventional weather generator (WG) that has been calibrated to match observed TPs to simulate the sequence of dry, wet, and very wet days at a set of long-term weather stations across Switzerland. The study finds systematic biases in TPs and spell lengths for raw RCM output, but a substantial improvement after bias correction using the deterministic quantile mapping technique. For the region considered, bias-corrected climate model output agrees well with observations in terms of TPs as well as dry and wet spell durations. For the majority of cases (models and stations) bias-corrected climate model output is similar in skill to a simple Markov chain stochastic weather generator. There is strong evidence that bias-corrected climate model simulations capture the atmospheric event sequence more realistically than a simple WG.

Corresponding author address: Jan Rajczak, Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zurich, Universitätstrasse 16, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland. E-mail: jan.rajczak@env.ethz.ch
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