, Volume 38, Issue 5-6, pp 1229-1247,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 19 Apr 2011

Potential for added value in precipitation simulated by high-resolution nested Regional Climate Models and observations


Regional Climate Models (RCMs) constitute the most often used method to perform affordable high-resolution regional climate simulations. The key issue in the evaluation of nested regional models is to determine whether RCM simulations improve the representation of climatic statistics compared to the driving data, that is, whether RCMs add value. In this study we examine a necessary condition that some climate statistics derived from the precipitation field must satisfy in order that the RCM technique can generate some added value: we focus on whether the climate statistics of interest contain some fine spatial-scale variability that would be absent on a coarser grid. The presence and magnitude of fine-scale precipitation variance required to adequately describe a given climate statistics will then be used to quantify the potential added value (PAV) of RCMs. Our results show that the PAV of RCMs is much higher for short temporal scales (e.g., 3-hourly data) than for long temporal scales (16-day average data) due to the filtering resulting from the time-averaging process. PAV is higher in warm season compared to cold season due to the higher proportion of precipitation falling from small-scale weather systems in the warm season. In regions of complex topography, the orographic forcing induces an extra component of PAV, no matter the season or the temporal scale considered. The PAV is also estimated using high-resolution datasets based on observations allowing the evaluation of the sensitivity of changing resolution in the real climate system. The results show that RCMs tend to reproduce relatively well the PAV compared to observations although showing an overestimation of the PAV in warm season and mountainous regions.