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Characteristics of sub-daily precipitation extremes in observed data and regional climate model simulations

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Abstract

The study compares characteristics of observed sub-daily precipitation extremes in the Czech Republic with those simulated by Hadley Centre Regional Model version 3 (HadRM3) and Rossby Centre Regional Atmospheric Model version 4 (RCA4) regional climate models (RCMs) driven by reanalyses and examines diurnal cycles of hourly precipitation and their dependence on intensity and surface temperature. The observed warm-season (May–September) maxima of short-duration (1, 2 and 3 h) amounts show one diurnal peak in the afternoon, which is simulated reasonably well by RCA4, although the peak occurs too early in the model. HadRM3 provides an unrealistic diurnal cycle with a nighttime peak and an afternoon minimum coinciding with the observed maximum for all three ensemble members, which suggests that convection is not captured realistically. Distorted relationships of the diurnal cycles of hourly precipitation to daily maximum temperature in HadRM3 further evidence that underlying physical mechanisms are misrepresented in this RCM. Goodness-of-fit tests indicate that generalised extreme value distribution is an applicable model for both observed and RCM-simulated precipitation maxima. However, the RCMs are not able to capture the range of the shape parameter estimates of distributions of short-duration precipitation maxima realistically, leading to either too many (nearly all for HadRM3) or too few (RCA4) grid boxes in which the shape parameter corresponds to a heavy tail. This means that the distributions of maxima of sub-daily amounts are distorted in the RCM-simulated data and do not match reality well. Therefore, projected changes of sub-daily precipitation extremes in climate change scenarios based on RCMs not resolving convection need to be interpreted with caution.

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Acknowledgments

The study was supported by the Czech Science Foundation under project 14-18675S. The observed data were provided by the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute and prepared within projects VG20122015092 funded by the Ministry of the Interior of the Czech Republic and KLIMATEXT (CZ.1.07/2.3.00/20.0086) funded by the European Social Fund. The RCM simulations were carried out in the framework of the ENSEMBLES project (HadRM3) and the CORDEX initiative (RCA4). We thank E. Buonomo (Met Office) and G. Nikulin (SMHI) for providing the sub-daily RCM data and V. Svoboda (IAP/CULS) for the assistance with data processing. We also acknowledge the free availability of E-OBS from the ENSEMBLES project.

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Correspondence to Romana Beranová.

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Beranová, R., Kyselý, J. & Hanel, M. Characteristics of sub-daily precipitation extremes in observed data and regional climate model simulations. Theor Appl Climatol 132, 515–527 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00704-017-2102-0

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