Comparison of General Circulation Model and Observed Regional Climates: Daily and Seasonal Variability

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  • 1 Atmospheric and Environmental Research, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • | 2 Atmospheric Sciences Research Center, SUNY, Albany, New York
  • | 3 NOAA/NESDIS/NCDC, Asheville, North Carolina
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Abstract

Validation of general circulation model (GCM) current climate simulations is important for further GCM development and application to climate change studies. So far, studies that compare GCM output with observations have focused primarily on large-scale spatial averages of the surface climate variables. Here we discuss two approaches to compare output of individual GCM grid boxes with local station observations near the surface and in the free troposphere. The first approach, proposed by Chervin, involves the application of standard parametric statistical analysis and hypothesis testing procedures. The second approach is nonparametric in the sense that no ideal distributions are postulated a priori to ascertain significance of the difference of mean temperature or the ratio of the temperature variance between model grid boxes and local stations. Instead, station observations are first subjected to a bootstrap technique and then used to define a unique set of distributions and confidence limits for each GCM grid box.

To demonstrate the usefulness of the two approaches, we compare daily and seasonal gridbox temperatures simulated by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Community Climate Model (CCM1) with station temperatures at the surface, 850-mb, 500-mb, and 300-mb levels for three different areas in the United States. We find that although CCM1 gridbox temperatures are mostly cooler than station temperatures, they are equally variable. For all grid boxes, gridbox-to-station differences decrease with height and vary with time of year. We conclude that the techniques presented here can provide useful comparisons of GCM regional and local observed temperatures. Application to other variables and GCMs is also discussed.

Abstract

Validation of general circulation model (GCM) current climate simulations is important for further GCM development and application to climate change studies. So far, studies that compare GCM output with observations have focused primarily on large-scale spatial averages of the surface climate variables. Here we discuss two approaches to compare output of individual GCM grid boxes with local station observations near the surface and in the free troposphere. The first approach, proposed by Chervin, involves the application of standard parametric statistical analysis and hypothesis testing procedures. The second approach is nonparametric in the sense that no ideal distributions are postulated a priori to ascertain significance of the difference of mean temperature or the ratio of the temperature variance between model grid boxes and local stations. Instead, station observations are first subjected to a bootstrap technique and then used to define a unique set of distributions and confidence limits for each GCM grid box.

To demonstrate the usefulness of the two approaches, we compare daily and seasonal gridbox temperatures simulated by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Community Climate Model (CCM1) with station temperatures at the surface, 850-mb, 500-mb, and 300-mb levels for three different areas in the United States. We find that although CCM1 gridbox temperatures are mostly cooler than station temperatures, they are equally variable. For all grid boxes, gridbox-to-station differences decrease with height and vary with time of year. We conclude that the techniques presented here can provide useful comparisons of GCM regional and local observed temperatures. Application to other variables and GCMs is also discussed.

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