The attribution of extreme weather events, such as heavy rainfall, to anthropogenic influence involves the analysis of their probability in simulations of climate. The climate models used however, such as the Community Atmosphere Model (CAM), employ approximate physics that gives rise to “parameter uncertainty”—uncertainty about the most accurate or optimal values of numerical parameters within the model.
In particular, approximate parameterisations for convective processes are well known to be influential in the simulation of precipitation extremes. Towards examining the impact of this source of uncertainty on attribution studies, we investigate the importance of components—through their associated tuning parameters—of parameterisations relating to deep and shallow convection, and cloud and aerosol microphysics in CAM. We hypothesise that as numerical resolution is increased the change in proportion of variance induced by perturbed parameters associated with the respective components is consistent with the decreasing applicability of the underlying hydrostatic assumptions. For example, that the relative influence of deep convection should diminish as resolution approaches that where convection can be resolved numerically (~ 10 km).
We quantify the relationship between the relative proportion of variance induced and numerical resolution by conducting computer experiments that examine precipitation extremes over the contiguous U.S. In order to mitigate the enormous computational burden of running ensembles of long climate simulations, we use variable-resolution CAM and employ both extreme value theory and surrogate modelling techniques (“emulators”). We discuss the implications of the relationship between parameterised convective processes and resolution both in the context of attribution studies and progression towards models that fully resolve convection.