Climate Dynamics

, Volume 34, Issue 2, pp 241-247

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

The effect of horizontal resolution on simulation of very extreme US precipitation events in a global atmosphere model

  • Michael F. WehnerAffiliated withLawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Email author 
  • , Richard L. SmithAffiliated withDepartment of Statistics and Operations Research, University of North Carolina
  • , G. BalaAffiliated withDivecha Center for Climate Change, Center for Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, Indian Institute of Science
  • , Phillip DuffyAffiliated withClimate Central, Inc


We investigate the ability of a global atmospheric general circulation model (AGCM) to reproduce observed 20 year return values of the annual maximum daily precipitation totals over the continental United States as a function of horizontal resolution. We find that at the high resolutions enabled by contemporary supercomputers, the AGCM can produce values of comparable magnitude to high quality observations. However, at the resolutions typical of the coupled general circulation models used in the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the precipitation return values are severely underestimated.


Extreme precipitation Climate models Return value High resolution