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A Multiyear Regional Climate Hindcast for the Western United States Using the Mesoscale Atmospheric Simulation Model

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  • 1 University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California
  • | 2 University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California
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Abstract

In preparation for studying the effects of increased CO2 on the hydrologic cycle in the western United States, an 8-yr hindcast was performed using a regional climate model (RCM) driven by the large-scale forcing from the NCEP–NCAR reanalysis. The simulated precipitation characteristics agree well with observations, especially in the winter. The simulated precipitation compares with rain gauge data at similar accuracy as the NCEP reanalysis, but the RCM-generated precipitation is more accurate than the reanalysis data at the scales of individual basins. Important characteristics of the hydrologic cycle of the region, such as seasonal snowfall, frequency of heavy and extreme daily precipitation events, and interannual variations of precipitation associated with the North American monsoon are also well represented in the hindcast. Compared to the Climate Research Unit, University of East Anglia (CRU), analysis, the simulated low-level air temperatures show cold biases except in summer. The temperature biases are difficult to quantify, however, due to suspected warm biases in the CRU data. The RCM overestimates surface insolation and outgoing longwave radiation at the top of the atmosphere (OLR-TOA). The errors in the simulated radiation are smaller over the land than the ocean. Both simulated and observed OLR-TOA suggest strong influence of low-level temperatures on the seasonal variations of OLR-TOA in the region. The results suggest that the RCM employed in this study possesses reasonable skill for studying regional climate change signals in the western United States.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Jinwon Kim, Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, 405 Hilgard Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90095-1565. Email: jkim@atmos.ucla.edu

Abstract

In preparation for studying the effects of increased CO2 on the hydrologic cycle in the western United States, an 8-yr hindcast was performed using a regional climate model (RCM) driven by the large-scale forcing from the NCEP–NCAR reanalysis. The simulated precipitation characteristics agree well with observations, especially in the winter. The simulated precipitation compares with rain gauge data at similar accuracy as the NCEP reanalysis, but the RCM-generated precipitation is more accurate than the reanalysis data at the scales of individual basins. Important characteristics of the hydrologic cycle of the region, such as seasonal snowfall, frequency of heavy and extreme daily precipitation events, and interannual variations of precipitation associated with the North American monsoon are also well represented in the hindcast. Compared to the Climate Research Unit, University of East Anglia (CRU), analysis, the simulated low-level air temperatures show cold biases except in summer. The temperature biases are difficult to quantify, however, due to suspected warm biases in the CRU data. The RCM overestimates surface insolation and outgoing longwave radiation at the top of the atmosphere (OLR-TOA). The errors in the simulated radiation are smaller over the land than the ocean. Both simulated and observed OLR-TOA suggest strong influence of low-level temperatures on the seasonal variations of OLR-TOA in the region. The results suggest that the RCM employed in this study possesses reasonable skill for studying regional climate change signals in the western United States.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Jinwon Kim, Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, 405 Hilgard Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90095-1565. Email: jkim@atmos.ucla.edu

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