Currently, there are a large number of diverse climate datasets in existence, which differ, sometimes greatly, in terms of their data sources, quality control schemes, estimation procedures, and spatial and temporal resolutions. Choosing an appropriate dataset for a given application is therefore not a simple task. This study compares nine global/near-global precipitation and three global temperature datasets over 3138 North American catchments. The chosen datasets all meet the minimum requirement of having at least 30-years of available data, so they could all potentially be used as reference datasets for climate change impact studies. The precipitation datasets include two gauged-only products (GPCC and CPC-Unified), two satellite products corrected using ground-based observations (CHIRPS V2.0 and PERSIANN-CDR V1R1), four reanalysis products (NCEP-CFSR, JRA55, ERA-Interim and ERA5) and one merged product (MSWEP V1.2). The temperature datasets include one gauge-based (CPC-Unified) and two reanalysis (ERA-Interim and ERA5) products. High-resolution gauge-based gridded precipitation and temperature datasetswere combined as the reference dataset for this inter-comparison study. To assess dataset performance, all combinations were used as inputs to a lumped hydrological model. The results showed that all temperature datasets performed similarly, albeit with the CPC performance being systematically inferior to that of the other three. Significant differences in performance were, however, observed between the precipitation datasets. The MSWEP dataset performed best, followed by the gauge-based, reanalysis and satellite datasets categories. Results also showed that gauge-based datasets should be preferred in regions with good weather network density, but CHIRPS and ERA5 would be good alternatives in data sparse regions.

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