07 July 2015

Fidelity of Climate Extremes in High Resolution Climate Models


Precipitation extremes have tangible societal impacts. Here, we assess if current state of the art global climate model simulations at high spatial resolutions (0.35◦x0.35◦) capture the observed behavior of precipitation extremes in the past few decades over the continental US. We design a correlation-based regionalization framework to quantify precipitation extremes, where samples of extreme events for a grid box may also be drawn from neighboring grid boxes with statistically equal means and statistically significant temporal correlations. We model precipitation extremes with the Generalized Extreme Value (GEV) distribution fits to time series of annual maximum precipitation. Non-stationarity of extremes is captured by including a time-dependent parameter in the GEV distribution. Our analysis reveals that the high-resolution model substantially improves the simulation of stationary precipitation extreme statistics particularly over the Northwest Pacific coastal region and the Southeast US. Observational data exhibits significant non-stationary behavior of extremes only over some parts of the Western US, with declining trends in the extremes. While the high resolution simulations improve upon the low resolution model in simulating this non-stationary behavior, the trends are statistically significant only over some of those regions.

Matthew Norman
Oak Ridge National Laboratory