The main aim of the study is to evaluate the capability of EURO-CORDEX regional climate models (RCMs) to simulate major heat waves in Central Europe and their associated meteorological factors. Three reference major heat waves (1994, 2006, and 2015) were identified in the E-OBS gridded data set, based on their temperature characteristics, length and spatial extent. Atmospheric circulation, precipitation, net shortwave radiation, and evaporative fraction anomalies during these events were assessed using the ERA-Interim reanalysis. The analogous major heat waves and their links to the aforementioned factors were analysed in an ensemble of EURO-CORDEX RCMs driven by various global climate models in the 1970–2016 period. All three reference major heat waves were associated with favourable circulation conditions, precipitation deficit, reduced evaporative fraction and increased net shortwave radiation. This joint contribution of large-scale circulation and land–atmosphere interactions is simulated with difficulties in majority of the RCMs, which affects the magnitude of modelled major heat waves. In some cases, the seemingly good reproduction of major heat waves’ magnitude is erroneously achieved through extremely favourable circulation conditions compensated by a substantial surplus of soil moisture or vice versa. These findings point to different driving mechanisms of major heat waves in some RCMs compared to observations, which should be taken into account when analysing and interpreting future projections of these events.
Heat waves Regional climate models CORDEX Atmospheric circulation Land–atmosphere interactions Central Europe
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The study was supported by the Czech Science Foundation, project 16-22000S. O. Lhotka was supported also by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports of the Czech Republic within the National Sustainability Program I (NPU I), Grant number LO1415. We acknowledge the WCRP WG on Regional Climate, and the WG on Coupled Modelling, former coordinating body of CORDEX and responsible panel for CMIP5. We also thank the climate modelling groups (listed in Table 1) for producing and making available their model output, and acknowledge the Earth System Grid Federation infrastructure 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). The E-OBS data set was developed within the EU-FP6 ENSEMBLES project and is provided by the ECA&D project.
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