, Volume 18, Issue 8, pp 627-646

Downscaling ability of one-way nested regional climate models: the Big-Brother Experiment

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A methodology is developed for testing the downscaling ability of nested regional climate models (RCMs). The proposed methodology, nick-named the Big-Brother Experiment (BBE), is based on a "perfect-prognosis" approach and hence does not suffer from model errors nor from limitations in observed climatologies. The BBE consists in first establishing a reference climate by performing a large-domain high-resolution RCM simulation: this simulation is called the Big Brother. This reference simulation is then degraded by filtering short scales that are unresolved in today's global objective analyses (OA) and/or global climate models (GCMs) when integrated for climate projections. This filtered reference is then used to drive the same nested RCM (called the Little Brother), integrated at the same high-resolution as the Big Brother, but over a smaller domain that is embedded in the Big-Brother domain. The climate statistics of the Little Brother are then compared with those of the Big Brother over the Little-Brother domain. Differences can thus be attributed unambiguously to errors associated with the nesting and downscaling technique, and not to model errors nor to observation limitations. The results of the BBE applied to a one-winter-month simulation over eastern North America at 45-km grid-spacing resolution show that the one-way nesting strategy has skill in downscaling large-scale information to the regional scales. The time mean and variability of fine-scale features in a number of fields, such as sea level pressure, 975-hPa temperature and precipitation are successfully reproduced, particularly over regions where small-scale surface forcings are strong. Over other regions such as the ocean and away from the surface, the small-scale reproducibility is more difficult to achieve.

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