U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights

High-Resolution Models Overestimate California Wintertime Precipitation
Published: November 01, 2010
Posted: November 05, 2010

Predicting precipitation over California is a critical challenge for the modeling community and a critical need for a state facing uncertainty in current and future water resources. DOE-funded scientist Peter Caldwell of Lawrence Livermore National Lab evaluated the ability of many models with differing spatial resolution to predict California precipitation. Predicted wintertime precipitation was systematically overestimated by higher-resolution models for both regional and global climate models due to over-predicted rainfall intensity during large storms. Increasing the resolution of model topography, clouds, and hydrology was expected to increase precipitation predictability, but the study reveals that this is not currently the case. These results suggest that improvements in high-resolution simulation of west-coast precipitation are needed and that caution should be used when interpreting current-generation regional model output in the complex coastal and mountainous terrain of the western United States.

Reference: Caldwell, P. 2010. "California Wintertime Precipitation Bias in Regional and Global Climate Models," Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology, 49:2147–58. doi:10.1175/2010JAMC2388.1.

Contact: Renu Joseph, SC-23.1, (301) 903-9237, Dorothy Koch, SC-23.1, (301) 903-0105
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Earth and Environmental Systems Modeling

Division: SC-23.1 Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, BER


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