Climate Dynamics

, Volume 44, Issue 3–4, pp 609–632 | Cite as

Resolution dependence in simulating the African hydroclimate with the HadGEM3-RA regional climate model

  • W. Moufouma-OkiaEmail author
  • R. Jones


This study documents the effect of horizontal resolution on the ability of the Met Office third-generation Global Atmosphere Regional Climate Model (HadGEM3-RA), a regional atmospheric configuration of the HadGEM3 model, to simulate rainfall variability over Africa. It is based on six 20-year long RCM simulations driven by ERA-Interim reanalysis and performed at 12, 25, 50, 70, 90, and 150 km over the CORDEX-Africa domain. To gain further insight into model errors, we also compared the HadGEM3-RA’s performance to that of the parent General Circulation Model using three different spatial resolutions (70, 100, and 150 km), and to HadRM3P—the current Met Office regional climate model. It is found that the 50 km resolution RCM reproduces reasonably the spatial and temporal features of rainfall variability across regions. These include the seasonal progression of the tropical rainbelt, its extent and location, the annual cycle and interannual variability. Although model biases vary across seasons and locations, a prominent feature is the over-prediction of rainfall totals over Central Africa, and underestimation of rainfall in coastal areas of the Guinea Gulf during boreal spring and autumn. HadGEM3-RA improves with increased horizontal resolution, but some model errors persist. Comparison with the parent global model simulations demonstrates generally a realistic and consistent behaviour over large scales—suggesting that the physical formulation is able to capture the key driving processes, but also confirms the benefit of increasing the model horizontal resolution. Despite the model errors, HadGEM3-RA rainfall shows superiority over that from HadRM3P, ERA-Interim and MERRA datasets—indicating that the associated dynamical features of HadGEM3-RA can complement the physical understanding gained from reanalyses. This article also highlights the challenges for evaluating climate models in data sparse regions where satellite derived rainfall and gridded observational datasets often diverge.


CORDEX African climate Regional climate modelling General circulation model Precipitation Horizontal resolution 



This research was carried out under the joint UKDFID/Met Office Hadley Centre Climate Science Research Partnership (CSRP) for Africa, which is funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) for the benefit of developing countries. The views expressed are not necessarily those of DFID. Comments and suggestions from the anonymous reviewers greatly helped improve the manuscript. GPCP data were provided by NOAA NCDC from their web site at The GLDAS data used in this study were acquired as part of the mission of NASA’s Earth Science Division and archived and distributed by the Goddard Earth Sciences (GES) Data and Information Services Center (DISC). MERRA reanalysis data were provided by the Global Modeling and Assimilation Office (GMAO) and the GES and available from ECMWF ERA-Interim data used in this study have been obtained from the ECMWF data server.


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Copyright information

© Crown Copyright 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ExeterUK
  2. 2.African Climate Policy Centre (ACPC), Special Initiative DivisionUnited Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA)Addis AbabaEthiopia

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