Sixteen Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 6 (CMIP6) historical simulations (1950–2014) are compared to Northeast US observed precipitation and extreme precipitation-related synoptic circulation. A set of metrics based on the regional climate is used to assess how realistically the models simulate the observed distribution and seasonality of extreme precipitation, as well as the synoptic patterns associated with extreme precipitation. These patterns are determined by k-means typing of 500-hPa geopotential heights on extreme precipitation days (top 1% of days with precipitation). The metrics are formulated to evaluate the models’ extreme precipitation spatial variations, seasonal frequency, and intensity; and for circulation, the fit to observed patterns, pattern seasonality, and pattern location of extreme precipitation.
Based on the metrics, the models vary considerably in their ability to simulate different aspects of regional precipitation, and a realistic simulation of the seasonality and distribution of precipitation does not necessarily correspond to a realistic simulation of the circulation patterns (reflecting the underlying dynamics of the precipitation), and vice versa. This highlights the importance of assessing both precipitation and its associated circulation. While the models vary in their ability to reproduce observed results, in general the higher resolution models score higher in terms of the metrics. Most models produce more frequent precipitation than that for observations, but capture the seasonality of precipitation intensity well, and capture at least several of the key characteristics of extreme precipitation-related circulation. These results do not appear to reflect a substantial improvement over a similar analysis of selected CMIP5 models.