Biological and Environmental Research - Earth and Environmental System Sciences
Earth and Environmental System Modeling
06 December 2016

Future Changes in Regional Precipitation Simulated by A Half-Degree Coupled Climate Model: Sensitivity to horizontal resolution


The global fully coupled half degree Community Climate System Model Version 4 (CCSM4) was integrated for a suite of climate change ensemble simulations including five historical runs, five Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 (RCP8.5) runs, and a long Pre-Industrial control run.   This study focuses on precipitation at regional scales and its sensitivity to horizontal resolution. The half degree historical CCSM4 simulations are compared to observations, where relevant, and to the standard one degree CCSM4. 


North American and South Asian/Indian monsoon regimes are highlighted because these regimes demonstrate improvements due to higher resolution, primarily because of better-resolved topography.  Agriculturally sensitive areas are analyzed and include Southwest, Central, and Southeast U.S, Southern Europe, and Australia. Convective precipitation tends to decrease with increasing resolution and large-scale precipitation tends to increase. Improvements for the half-degree agricultural regions can be found for mean and extreme precipitation in the Southeast U.S., Southern Europe, and Australian regions.  


Climate change responses differ between the model resolutions for the U.S. Southwest/Central regions and are seasonally dependent in the Southeast and Australian regions.  Both resolutions project a clear drying signal across Southern Europe due to increased greenhouse warming.  Differences between resolutions tied to the representation of convective and large-scale precipitation play an important role in the character of the climate change and depend on regional influences.

Christine Shields
National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)