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A Case Study of the Adequacy of GCM Simulations for Input to Regional Climate Change Assessments

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  • 1 Center for Meteorology and Physical Oceanography, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts
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Abstract

The Sacramento Basin is used as the focus for a case study testing whether general circulation models (GCMS) are capable of simulating the large-scale and synoptic-scale processes important in studies of regional water resources. Output from a variety of GCMs developed at GISS and NCAR were examined, but only results from Community Climate Model (CCM) simulations are presented since they are typical. The stationary waves, jet streams, and storm tracks in the North Pacific-North America region in the CCM simulators show major differences from the observations, both in the mean and in their interannual variations. In addition, although the stationary wave and jet stream patterns associated with individual storms in the basin exhibit robust differences from mean fields in the observations, these differences are not captured in the models. Consequently, the larger-scale fields necessary for driving nested models and impact models for the basin, or for western North America in general, are problematic in these models.

The model deficiencies persist at resolutions as high as T106. Also, the use of time series of observed ocean boundary conditions does little to improve model deficiencies. Consequently, the deficiencies in the model large-scale circulation features can be attributed to the model subgrid-scale parameterizations, underscoring the need to improve model parameterizations.

Abstract

The Sacramento Basin is used as the focus for a case study testing whether general circulation models (GCMS) are capable of simulating the large-scale and synoptic-scale processes important in studies of regional water resources. Output from a variety of GCMs developed at GISS and NCAR were examined, but only results from Community Climate Model (CCM) simulations are presented since they are typical. The stationary waves, jet streams, and storm tracks in the North Pacific-North America region in the CCM simulators show major differences from the observations, both in the mean and in their interannual variations. In addition, although the stationary wave and jet stream patterns associated with individual storms in the basin exhibit robust differences from mean fields in the observations, these differences are not captured in the models. Consequently, the larger-scale fields necessary for driving nested models and impact models for the basin, or for western North America in general, are problematic in these models.

The model deficiencies persist at resolutions as high as T106. Also, the use of time series of observed ocean boundary conditions does little to improve model deficiencies. Consequently, the deficiencies in the model large-scale circulation features can be attributed to the model subgrid-scale parameterizations, underscoring the need to improve model parameterizations.

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