Evaluation of the tail of the probability distribution of daily and sub-daily precipitation in CMIP6 models

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  • 1 Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of California Los Angeles, CA, USA
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Abstract

Daily and sub-daily precipitation extremes in historical Coupled-Model-Intercomparison-Project-Phase-6 (CMIP6) simulations are evaluated against satellite-based observational estimates. Extremes are defined as the precipitation amount exceeded every x years, ranging from 0.01–10, encompassing the rarest events that are detectable in the observational record without noisy results. With increasing temporal resolution there is an increased discrepancy between models and observations: for daily extremes the multi-model median underestimates the highest percentiles by about a third, and for 3-hourly extremes by about 75% in the tropics. The novelty of the current study is that, to understand the model spread, we evaluate the 3-D structure of the atmosphere when extremes occur. In midlatitudes, where extremes are simulated predominantly explicitly, the intuitive relationship exists whereby higher-resolution models produce larger extremes (r=–0.49), via greater vertical velocity. In the tropics, the convective fraction (the fraction of precipitation simulated directly from the convective scheme) is more relevant. For models below 60% convective fraction, precipitation amount decreases with convective fraction (r=–0.63), but above 75% convective fraction, this relationship breaks down. In the lower-convective-fraction models, there is more moisture in the lower troposphere, closer to saturation. In the higher-convective-fraction models, there is deeper convection and higher cloud tops, which appears to be more physical. Thus, the low-convective models are mostly closer to the observations of extreme precipitation in the tropics, but likely for the wrong reasons. These inter-model differences in the environment in which extremes are simulated hold clues into how parameterizations could be modified in general circulation models to produce more credible 21st-Century projections.

Corresponding author address: Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of California Los Angeles, CA, USA. E-mail: jessenorris@ucla.edu

Abstract

Daily and sub-daily precipitation extremes in historical Coupled-Model-Intercomparison-Project-Phase-6 (CMIP6) simulations are evaluated against satellite-based observational estimates. Extremes are defined as the precipitation amount exceeded every x years, ranging from 0.01–10, encompassing the rarest events that are detectable in the observational record without noisy results. With increasing temporal resolution there is an increased discrepancy between models and observations: for daily extremes the multi-model median underestimates the highest percentiles by about a third, and for 3-hourly extremes by about 75% in the tropics. The novelty of the current study is that, to understand the model spread, we evaluate the 3-D structure of the atmosphere when extremes occur. In midlatitudes, where extremes are simulated predominantly explicitly, the intuitive relationship exists whereby higher-resolution models produce larger extremes (r=–0.49), via greater vertical velocity. In the tropics, the convective fraction (the fraction of precipitation simulated directly from the convective scheme) is more relevant. For models below 60% convective fraction, precipitation amount decreases with convective fraction (r=–0.63), but above 75% convective fraction, this relationship breaks down. In the lower-convective-fraction models, there is more moisture in the lower troposphere, closer to saturation. In the higher-convective-fraction models, there is deeper convection and higher cloud tops, which appears to be more physical. Thus, the low-convective models are mostly closer to the observations of extreme precipitation in the tropics, but likely for the wrong reasons. These inter-model differences in the environment in which extremes are simulated hold clues into how parameterizations could be modified in general circulation models to produce more credible 21st-Century projections.

Corresponding author address: Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of California Los Angeles, CA, USA. E-mail: jessenorris@ucla.edu
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