Climate Dynamics

, Volume 39, Issue 1–2, pp 59–76 | Cite as

Evaluating uncertainties in regional climate simulations over South America at the seasonal scale

  • Silvina A. SolmanEmail author
  • Natalia L. Pessacg


This work focuses on the evaluation of different sources of uncertainty affecting regional climate simulations over South America at the seasonal scale, using the MM5 model. The simulations cover a 3-month period for the austral spring season. Several four-member ensembles were performed in order to quantify the uncertainty due to: the internal variability; the definition of the regional model domain; the choice of physical parameterizations and the selection of physical parameters within a particular cumulus scheme. The uncertainty was measured by means of the spread among individual members of each ensemble during the integration period. Results show that the internal variability, triggered by differences in the initial conditions, represents the lowest level of uncertainty for every variable analyzed. The geographic distribution of the spread among ensemble members depends on the variable: for precipitation and temperature the largest spread is found over tropical South America while for the mean sea level pressure the largest spread is located over the southeastern Atlantic Ocean, where large synoptic-scale activity occurs. Using nudging techniques to ingest the boundary conditions reduces dramatically the internal variability. The uncertainty due to the domain choice displays a similar spatial pattern compared with the internal variability, except for the mean sea level pressure field, though its magnitude is larger all over the model domain for every variable. The largest spread among ensemble members is found for the ensemble in which different combinations of physical parameterizations are selected. The perturbed physics ensemble produces a level of uncertainty slightly larger than the internal variability. This study suggests that no matter what the source of uncertainty is, the geographical distribution of the spread among members of the ensembles is invariant, particularly for precipitation and temperature.


Regional climate modeling South America Uncertainty MM5 model 



Fifth-generation Pennsylvania-State University-NCAR non-hydrostatic mesoscale model


European reanalyses


South America


Regional climate model


General circulation model


Internal variability


Kain–Fritsch cumulus scheme


Grell cumulus scheme


Betts–Miller cumulus scheme


Updated version of Kain–Fritsch cumulus scheme


Planetary boundary layer


Medium range forecast model


ETA planetary boundary layers scheme


Root mean square difference


Sea level pressure


Sea surface temperature


South Atlantic convergence zone


Inter-tropical convergence zone


2 m temperature



The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under Grant Agreement No 212492 (CLARIS LPB—A Europe-South America Network for Climate Change Assessment and Impact Studies in La Plata Basin). This work has also been supported by FONCYT Grant PICT05 32194, UBACyT Grant X160, Conicet Grant PIP 112-200801-00195. The authors wish to thank the comments of two anonymous reviewers for insightful suggestions that greatly helped to improve this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centro de Investigaciones del Mar y la Atmósfera CIMA/CONICET-UBA, DCAO/FCEN, UMI-IFAECI/CNRS, CIMA-Ciudad UniversitariaBuenos AiresArgentina
  2. 2.Centro Nacional Patagónico (CONICET)Puerto MadrynArgentina

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