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Helin Wei, William J. Gutowski Jr., Charles J. Vorosmarty, and Balazs M. Fekete

Abstract

A number of polar datasets have recently been released involving in situ measurements, satellite retrievals, and reanalysis output that provide new opportunities to evaluate regional climate in the Arctic. These data have been used to assess a 1-yr pan-Arctic simulation (October 1985–September 1986) performed by a version of the fifth-generation Pennsylvania State University–National Center for Atmospheric Research (PSU–NCAR) Mesoscale Model (MM5) that incorporated the NCAR land surface model (LSM) and a simple thermodynamic sea ice model to investigate interactions between the land surface and atmosphere. The model's standard cloud scheme using relative humidity was replaced by one using simulated cloud liquid water and ice water after a set of short test simulations revealed excessive cloud cover.

Model validation concentrates on factors relevant to the water cycle: atmospheric circulation, temperature, surface radiation fluxes, precipitation, and runoff. The model captures general patterns of atmospheric circulation over land. The rms differences from the Historical Arctic Rawinsonde Archive (HARA) rawinsonde winds at 850 hPa are smaller for the simulation (9.8 m s−1) than for the NCEP–NCAR reanalysis (10.5 m s−1) that supplies the model's boundary conditions. For continental watersheds, the model simulates well annual average surface air temperature (bias <2°C) and precipitation (bias <0.5 mm day−1). However, the model has a summer dry bias with monthly precipitation error occasionally exceeding 1 mm day−1. The model simulates the approximate magnitude of spring runoff surge, but annual runoff is less than observed (18%–48% less among the continental watersheds). Analysis of precipitation and surface air temperature errors indicates that further improvements in both evapotranspiration and precipitation are needed to simulate well the full annual water cycle.

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William J. Gutowski Jr., Gerald L. Potter, and Michael R. Riches
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William J. Gutowski Jr., Francis O. Otieno, Raymond W. Arritt, Eugene S. Takle, and Zaitao Pan

Abstract

Precipitation from a 10-yr regional climate simulation is evaluated using three complementary analyses: self-organizing maps, bias scores, and arithmetic bias. Collectively, the three reveal a precipitation deficit in the south-central United States that emerges in September and lingers through February. Deficient precipitation for this region and time of year is also evident in other simulations, indicating a generic problem in climate simulation.

Analysis of terrestrial and atmospheric water balances shows that the 10-yr average precipitation error for the region results primarily from a deficit in horizontal water vapor convergence. However, the 10-yr average for fall only suggests that the primary contributor is a deficit in evapotranspiration. Evaluation of simulated temperature and soil moisture suggests the model has insufficient terrestrial water for evaporation during fall. Results for winter are mixed; errors in both evapotranspiration and lateral moisture convergence may contribute substantially to the precipitation deficit. The model reproduces well both the time-average and time-filtered large-scale circulation, implying that the moisture convergence error arises from an error in simulating mesoscale circulation.

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Kenneth E. Kunkel, Karen Andsager, Xin-Zhong Liang, Raymond W. Arritt, Eugene S. Takle, William J. Gutowski Jr., and Zaitao Pan

Abstract

A regional climate model simulation of the period of 1979–88 over the contiguous United States, driven by lateral boundary conditions from the National Centers for Environmental Prediction–National Center for Atmospheric Research reanalysis, was analyzed to assess the ability of the model to simulate heavy precipitation events and seasonal precipitation anomalies. Heavy events were defined by precipitation totals that exceed the threshold value for a specified return period and duration. The model magnitudes of the thresholds for 1-day heavy precipitation events were in good agreement with observed thresholds for much of the central United States. Model thresholds were greater than observed for the eastern and intermountain western portions of the region and were smaller than observed for the lower Mississippi River basin. For 7-day events, model thresholds were in good agreement with observed thresholds for the eastern United States and Great Plains, were less than observed for the most of the Mississippi River valley, and were greater than observed for the intermountain western region. The interannual variability in frequency of heavy events in the model simulation exhibited similar behavior to that of the observed variability in the South, Southwest, West, and North-Central study regions. The agreement was poorer for the Midwest and Northeast, although the magnitude of variability was similar for both model and observations. There was good agreement between the model and observational data in the seasonal distribution of extreme events for the West and North-Central study regions; in the Southwest, Midwest, and Northeast, there were general similarities but some differences in the details of the distributions. The most notable differences occurred for the southern Gulf Coast region, for which the model produced a summer peak that is not present in the observational data. There was not a very high correlation in the timing of individual heavy events between the model and observations, reflecting differences between model and observations in the speed and path of many of the synoptic-scale events triggering the precipitation.

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William J. Gutowski Jr., Steven G. Decker, Rodney A. Donavon, Zaitao Pan, Raymond W. Arritt, and Eugene S. Takle

Abstract

Precipitation intensity spectra for a central U.S. region in a 10-yr regional climate simulation are compared to corresponding observed spectra for precipitation accumulation periods ranging from 6 h to 10 days. Model agreement with observations depends on the length of the precipitation accumulation period, with similar results for both warm and cold halves of the year. For 6- and 12-h accumulation periods, simulated and observed spectra show little overlap. For daily and longer accumulation periods, the spectra are similar for moderate precipitation rates, though the model produces too many low-intensity precipitation events and too few high-intensity precipitation events for all accumulation periods. The spatial correlation of simulated and observed precipitation events indicates that the model's 50-km grid spacing is too coarse to simulate well high-intensity events. Spatial correlations with and without very light precipitation indicate that coarse resolution is not a direct cause of excessive low-intensity events. The model shows less spread than observations in its pattern of spatial correlation versus distance, suggesting that resolved model circulation patterns producing 6-hourly precipitation are limited in the range of precipitation patterns they can produce compared to the real world. The correlations also indicate that replicating observed precipitation intensity distributions for 6-h accumulation periods requires grid spacing smaller than about 15 km, suggesting that models with grid spacing substantially larger than this will be unable to simulate the observed diurnal cycle of precipitation.

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Abayomi A. Abatan, William J. Gutowski Jr., Caspar M. Ammann, Laurna Kaatz, Barbara G. Brown, Lawrence Buja, Randy Bullock, Tressa Fowler, Eric Gilleland, and John Halley Gotway

Abstract

This study analyzes spatial and temporal characteristics of multiyear droughts and pluvials over the southwestern United States with a focus on the upper Colorado River basin. The study uses two multiscalar moisture indices: standardized precipitation evapotranspiration index (SPEI) and standardized precipitation index (SPI) on a 36-month scale (SPEI36 and SPI36, respectively). The indices are calculated from monthly average precipitation and maximum and minimum temperatures from the Parameter-Elevation Regressions on Independent Slopes Model dataset for the period 1950–2012. The study examines the relationship between individual climate variables as well as large-scale atmospheric circulation features found in reanalysis output during drought and pluvial periods. The results indicate that SPEI36 and SPI36 show similar temporal and spatial patterns, but that the inclusion of temperatures in SPEI36 leads to more extreme magnitudes in SPEI36 than in SPI36. Analysis of large-scale atmospheric fields indicates an interplay between different fields that yields extremes over the study region. Widespread drought (pluvial) events are associated with enhanced positive (negative) 500-hPa geopotential height anomaly linked to subsidence (ascent) and negative (positive) moisture convergence and precipitable water anomalies. Considering the broader context of the conditions responsible for the occurrence of prolonged hydrologic anomalies provides water resource managers and other decision-makers with valuable understanding of these events. This perspective also offers evaluation opportunities for climate models.

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Christopher J. Anderson, Raymond W. Arritt, Zaitao Pan, Eugene S. Takle, William J. Gutowski Jr., Francis O. Otieno, Renato da Silva, Daniel Caya, Jens H. Christensen, Daniel Lüthi, Miguel A. Gaertner, Clemente Gallardo, Filippo Giorgi, René Laprise, Song-You Hong, Colin Jones, H-M. H. Juang, J. J. Katzfey, John L. McGregor, William M. Lapenta, Jay W. Larson, John A. Taylor, Glen E. Liston, Roger A. Pielke Sr., and John O. Roads

Abstract

Thirteen regional climate model (RCM) simulations of June–July 1993 were compared with each other and observations. Water vapor conservation and precipitation characteristics in each RCM were examined for a 10° × 10° subregion of the upper Mississippi River basin, containing the region of maximum 60-day accumulated precipitation in all RCMs and station reports.

All RCMs produced positive precipitation minus evapotranspiration (PE > 0), though most RCMs produced PE below the observed range. RCM recycling ratios were within the range estimated from observations. No evidence of common errors of E was found. In contrast, common dry bias of P was found in the simulations.

Daily cycles of terms in the water vapor conservation equation were qualitatively similar in most RCMs. Nocturnal maximums of P and C (convergence) occurred in 9 of 13 RCMs, consistent with observations. Three of the four driest simulations failed to couple P and C overnight, producing afternoon maximum P. Further, dry simulations tended to produce a larger fraction of their 60-day accumulated precipitation from low 3-h totals.

In station reports, accumulation from high (low) 3-h totals had a nocturnal (early morning) maximum. This time lag occurred, in part, because many mesoscale convective systems had reached peak intensity overnight and had declined in intensity by early morning. None of the RCMs contained such a time lag. It is recommended that short-period experiments be performed to examine the ability of RCMs to simulate mesoscale convective systems prior to generating long-period simulations for hydroclimatology.

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William J. Gutowski Jr., Raymond W. Arritt, Sho Kawazoe, David M. Flory, Eugene S. Takle, Sébastien Biner, Daniel Caya, Richard G. Jones, René Laprise, L. Ruby Leung, Linda O. Mearns, Wilfran Moufouma-Okia, Ana M. B. Nunes, Yun Qian, John O. Roads, Lisa C. Sloan, and Mark A. Snyder

Abstract

This paper analyzes the ability of the North American Regional Climate Change Assessment Program (NARCCAP) ensemble of regional climate models to simulate extreme monthly precipitation and its supporting circulation for regions of North America, comparing 18 years of simulations driven by the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP)–Department of Energy (DOE) reanalysis with observations. The analysis focuses on the wettest 10% of months during the cold half of the year (October–March), when it is assumed that resolved synoptic circulation governs precipitation. For a coastal California region where the precipitation is largely topographic, the models individually and collectively replicate well the monthly frequency of extremes, the amount of extreme precipitation, and the 500-hPa circulation anomaly associated with the extremes. The models also replicate very well the statistics of the interannual variability of occurrences of extremes. For an interior region containing the upper Mississippi River basin, where precipitation is more dependent on internally generated storms, the models agree with observations in both monthly frequency and magnitude, although not as closely as for coastal California. In addition, simulated circulation anomalies for extreme months are similar to those in observations. Each region has important seasonally varying precipitation processes that govern the occurrence of extremes in the observations, and the models appear to replicate well those variations.

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