Future precipitation in Portugal: high-resolution projections using WRF model and EURO-CORDEX multi-model ensembles

Abstract

Portugal, which is located in the west limit of the Mediterranean subtropics, is a small region with a complex orography with large precipitation gradients and interannual variability. In this study, the newer and higher resolution regional climate simulations, covering Portugal, are evaluated in present climate and used to investigate the rainfall projections for the end of the twenty-first century, following the RCP4.5 and RCP8.5 emission scenarios. The EURO-CORDEX historical simulations, at 0.11° and at 0.44° resolution, are evaluated against gridded observations of precipitation, which allows the assembly of four multi-model ensembles. An extra simulation, at even higher resolution (9 km) with WRF is also analysed. In present climate, the models are able to describe the precipitation temporal and spatial patterns as well its distributions, although there is a large spread and an overestimation of larger rainfall quantiles. The multi-model ensembles show that selecting the best performing models adds quality to the overall representation of rainfall. The high-resolution simulations augment the spatial details of precipitation, but objectively do not seem to add value with respect to the coarse resolution. Regarding the RCP8.5 scenario, WRF and the multi-model ensembles consistently predict important losses of precipitation in Portugal in spring, summer and autumn, ranging from −10% and −50%. For all seasons, the changes are more severe in the southern basins. The precipitation distributions show, for all models, important reductions of the contribution from low to moderate/high precipitation bins and augments of days with strong rainfall. Furthermore, a prominent growth of high-ranking percentiles is predicted reaching values over 70% in some regions. Generally, the changes associated with the RCP4.5 scenario have the same signal and features, but with smaller magnitudes.

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    http://esg-dn1.nsc.liu.se/esgf-web-fe/live.

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Acknowledgements

The authors wish to acknowledge the projects SOLAR (PTDC/GEOMET/7078/2014), SHARE (RECI/GEOMET/0380/2012) and EUPORIAS (7th Framework Programme for Research, Grant Agreement 308291) and the EarthSystems Doctoral Programme at the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon (Grant PD/BD/106008/2014) without which this work wouldn’t be possible. This work was also supported by project FCT UID/GEO/50019/2013—Instituto Dom Luiz. The authors thank IPMA, I.P. by the data provided for this work (PT02 gridded precipitation dataset). Finally, the authors acknowledge the World Climate Research Programme's Working Group on Regional Climate, and the Working Group on Coupled Modelling, former coordinating body of CORDEX and responsible panel for CMIP5. The authors also thank the climate modelling groups (listed in Table XX of this paper) for producing and making available their model output. The authors also acknowledge the Earth System Grid Federation infrastructure, an international effort led by the U.S. Department of Energy's Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison, the European Network for Earth System Modelling and other partners in the Global Organisation for Earth System Science Portals (GO-ESSP).

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Correspondence to Pedro M. M. Soares.

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Soares, P.M.M., Cardoso, R.M., Lima, D.C.A. et al. Future precipitation in Portugal: high-resolution projections using WRF model and EURO-CORDEX multi-model ensembles. Clim Dyn 49, 2503–2530 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00382-016-3455-2

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Keywords

  • Climate change
  • Global warming
  • South Europe
  • Extreme precipitation
  • Regional climate modelling
  • Multi-model ensembles