Land Surface Model Influence on the Simulated Climatologies of Temperature and Precipitation Extremes in the WRF v3.9 Model over North America


The representation and projection of extreme temperature and precipitation events in regional and global climate models are of major importance for the study of climate change impacts. However, state-of-the-art global and regional climate model simulations yield a broad inter-model range of intensity, duration and frequency of these extremes. Here, we present a modeling experiment using the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model to determine the influence of the land surface model (LSM) component on uncertainties associated with extreme events. First, we analyze land– atmosphere interactions within four simulations performed by the WRF model from 1980 to 2012 over North America, using three different LSMs. Results show LSM-dependent differences at regional scales in the frequency of occurrence of events when surface conditions are altered by atmospheric forcing or land processes. The inter-model range of extreme statistics across the WRF simulations is large, particularly for indices related to the intensity and duration of temperature and precipitation extremes. Our results show that the WRF simulation of the climatology of heat extremes can be 5° C warmer and 6 d longer depending on the employed LSM component, and similarly for cold extremes and heavy precipitation events. Areas showing large uncertainty in WRF-simulated extreme events are also identified in a model ensemble from three different regional climate model (RCM) simulations participating in the Coordinated Regional Climate Downscaling Experiment (CORDEX) project, revealing the implications of these results for other model ensembles. Thus, studies based on multi-model ensembles and reanalyses should include a variety of LSM configurations to account for the uncertainty arising from this model component or to test the performance of the selected LSM component before running the whole simulation. This study illustrates the importance of the LSM choice in climate simulations, supporting the development of new modeling studies using different LSM components to understand inter-model differences in simulating extreme temperature and precipitation events, which in turn will help to reduce uncertainties in climate model projections.

Geoscientific Model Development