High-resolution precipitation and temperature downscaling for glacier models
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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.