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Climate Dynamics

, Volume 39, Issue 7–8, pp 1681–1695 | Cite as

Atmospheric circulation in regional climate models over Central Europe: links to surface air temperature and the influence of driving data

  • Eva PlavcováEmail author
  • Jan Kyselý
Article

Abstract

The study examines simulation of atmospheric circulation, represented by circulation indices (flow direction, strength and vorticity), and links between circulation and daily surface air temperatures in regional climate models (RCMs) over Central Europe. We explore control simulations of five high-resolution RCMs from the ENSEMBLES project driven by re-analysis (ERA-40) and the same global climate model (ECHAM5 GCM) plus of one RCM (RCA) driven by different GCMs. The aims are to (1) identify errors in RCM-simulated distributions of circulation indices in individual seasons, (2) identify errors in simulated temperatures under particular circulation indices, and (3) compare performance of individual RCMs with respect to the driving data. Although most of the RCMs qualitatively reflect observed distributions of the airflow indices, each produces distributions significantly different from the observations. General biases include overestimation of the frequency of strong flow days and of strong cyclonic vorticity. Some circulation biases obviously propagate from the driving data. ECHAM5 and all simulations driven by ECHAM5 underestimate frequency of easterly flow, mainly in summer. Except for HIRHAM, however, all RCMs driven by ECHAM5 improve on the driving GCM in simulating atmospheric circulation. The influence on circulation characteristics in the nested RCM differs between GCMs, as demonstrated in a set of RCA simulations with different driving data. The driving data control on circulation in RCA is particularly weak for the BCM GCM, in which case RCA substantially modifies (but does not improve) the circulation from the driving data in both winter and summer. Those RCMs with the most distorted atmospheric circulation are HIRHAM driven by ECHAM5 and RCA driven by BCM. Relatively strong relationships between circulation indices and surface air temperatures were found in the observed data for Central Europe. The links differ by season and are usually stronger for daily maxima than minima. RCMs qualitatively reproduce these relationships. Effects of the driving model biases were found on RCMs’ performance in reproducing not only atmospheric circulation but also the links to surface temperature. However, the RCM formulation appears to be more important than the driving data in representing the latter. Differences of the circulation-to-temperature links among the RCA simulations are smaller and the links tend to be more realistic compared to the driving GCMs.

Keywords

Regional climate models Global climate models Atmospheric circulation Surface air temperature ENSEMBLES Central Europe 

Notes

Acknowledgments

The authors are grateful to P. Štěpánek, Czech Hydrometeorological Institute, Brno, for providing the gridded observed data, and to anonymous referees for comments that helped improve the original manuscript. The RCM and GCM data were obtained from the ENSEMBLES project database funded within the EU-FP6, contract number 505539. The study was supported under project P209/10/2265 funded by the Czech Science Foundation.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Academy of Sciences of the Czech RepublicPrague 4Czech Republic
  2. 2.Department of Applied MathematicsTechnical UniversityLiberecCzech Republic
  3. 3.Faculty of Mathematics and PhysicsCharles UniversityPragueCzech Republic

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