Kendon, E.J., N.M. Roberts, C.A. Senior, and M.J. Roberts, 2012: “Realism of rainfall in a very high-resolution regional climate model.” Journal of Climate, v. 25, pp. 5791–5806, doi: 10.1175/JCLI-D-11-00562.1.
The realistic representation of rainfall on the local scale in climate models remains a key challenge. Realism encompasses the full spatial and temporal structure of rainfall, and is a key indicator of model skill in representing the underlying processes. In particular, if rainfall is more realistic in a climate model, there is greater confidence in its projections of future change.
In this study, the realism of rainfall in a very high-resolution (1.5 km) regional climate model (RCM) is compared to a coarser-resolution 12-km RCM. This is the first time a convection-permitting model has been run for an extended period (1989–2008) over a region of the United Kingdom, allowing the characteristics of rainfall to be evaluated in a climatological sense. In particular, the duration and spatial extent of hourly rainfall across the southern United Kingdom is examined, with a key focus on heavy rainfall.
Rainfall in the 1.5-km RCM is found to be much more realistic than in the 12-km RCM. In the 12-km RCM, heavy rain events are not heavy enough, and tend to be too persistent and widespread. While the 1.5-km model does have a tendency for heavy rain to be too intense, it still gives a much better representation of its duration and spatial extent. Long-standing problems in climate models, such as the tendency for too much persistent light rain and errors in the diurnal cycle, are also considerably reduced in the 1.5-km RCM. Biases in the 12-km RCM appear to be linked to deficiencies in the representation of convection.