Climate Dynamics

, Volume 38, Issue 1–2, pp 391–409 | Cite as

High-resolution precipitation and temperature downscaling for glacier models

  • Alexander H. JaroschEmail author
  • Faron S. Anslow
  • Garry K. C. Clarke


The spatial resolution gap between global or regional climate models and the requirements for local impact studies motivates the need for climate downscaling. For impact studies that involve glacier modelling, the sparsity or complete absence of climate monitoring activities within the regions of interest presents a substantial additional challenge. Downscaling methods for this application must be independent of climate observations and cannot rely on tuning to station data. We present new, computationally-efficient methods for downscaling precipitation and temperature to the high spatial resolutions required to force mountain glacier models. Our precipitation downscaling is based on an existing linear theory for orographic precipitation, which we modify for large study regions by including moist air tracking. Temperature is downscaled using an interpolation scheme that reconstructs the vertical temperature structure to estimate surface temperatures from upper air data. Both methods are able to produce output on km to sub-km spatial resolution, yet do not require tuning to station measurements. By comparing our downscaled precipitation (1 km resolution) and temperature (200 m resolution) fields to station measurements in southern British Columbia, we evaluate their performance regionally and through the annual cycle. Precipitation is improved by as much as 30% (median relative error) over the input reanalysis data and temperature is reconstructed with a mean bias of 0.5°C at locations with high vertical relief. Both methods perform best in mountainous terrain, where glaciers tend to be concentrated.


High resolution downscaling Precipitation Temperature Glacier modelling British Columbia 



We thank C. Reuten, V. Radić, and B. Ainslie for their constructive discussions and valuable criticism. H. Björnsson, P. Crochet, and T. Jóhannesson generously provided preprints of unpublished material. Joe Shea provided glacier station data. Further we thank the three anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments. Financial support for this project was provided through the Polar Climate Stability Network and the Western Canadian Cryospheric Network, both funded by the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences, and by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alexander H. Jarosch
    • 1
    Email author
  • Faron S. Anslow
    • 1
  • Garry K. C. Clarke
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Earth and Ocean SciencesThe University of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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