Theoretical and Applied Climatology

, Volume 53, Issue 4, pp 185–209

Interannual variability and regional climate simulations


  • D. Lüthi
    • Atmospheric Physics ETH
  • A. Cress
    • Atmospheric Physics ETH
  • H. C. Davies
    • Atmospheric Physics ETH
  • C. Frei
    • Atmospheric Physics ETH
  • C. Schär
    • Atmospheric Physics ETH

DOI: 10.1007/BF00871736

Cite this article as:
Lüthi, D., Cress, A., Davies, H.C. et al. Theor Appl Climatol (1996) 53: 185. doi:10.1007/BF00871736


An assessment is made of a regional climate model's skill in simulating the mean climatology and the interannual variability experienced in a specific region. To this end two ensembles comprising three realizations of month-long January and July simulations are undertaken with a limited are a operational NWP model. The modelling suite is driven at its lateral boundaries by analysed meteorological fields and the computational domain covers Europe and the North-western Atlantic with a horizontal resolution of 56 km.

Validation is performed against both operational ECMWF analyses and objectively analysed precipitation fields from a network of ~ 1400 SYNOP rain gauge stations. Analysis of the simulated ensemble-mean climatology indicates that the model successfully reproduces both the winter and summer distributions of the primary dynamical and thermodynamical field, and also provides a reasonable representation of the measured precipitation over most of Europe. Typically the domain averaged model-biases are below 0.5 K for temperature and 0.1 g/kg for specific humidity. Analysis of the interannual variability reveals that the model captures the wintertime changes including that of the precipitation distribution, but in contrast the summertime precipitation totals for the individual years is not simulated satisfactorily and only partially reproduces the observed regional interannual variability.

The latter shortcomings are related to the following factors. Firstly the model bias in the dynamical fields is somewhat larger for summer than winter, while at the same time summertime interannual variability is associated with weaker effects in the dynamical fields. Secondly the summertime precipitation distribution is more substantially affected by small-scale moist convection and surface hydrological processes. Together these two factors suggest that summertime precipitation over continental extratropical land masses might be intrinsically less predictable than wintertime synoptic scale precipitation.

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© Springer-Verlag 1996