Articles | Volume 8, issue 3
Research article
05 Jul 2017
Research article |  | 05 Jul 2017

Quantifying the added value of convection-permitting climate simulations in complex terrain: a systematic evaluation of WRF over the Himalayas

Ramchandra Karki, Shabeh ul Hasson, Lars Gerlitz, Udo Schickhoff, Thomas Scholten, and Jürgen Böhner

Abstract. Mesoscale dynamical refinements of global climate models or atmospheric reanalysis have shown their potential to resolve intricate atmospheric processes, their land surface interactions, and subsequently, realistic distribution of climatic fields in complex terrains. Given that such potential is yet to be explored within the central Himalayan region of Nepal, we investigate the skill of the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model with different spatial resolutions in reproducing the spatial, seasonal, and diurnal characteristics of the near-surface air temperature and precipitation as well as the spatial shifts in the diurnal monsoonal precipitation peak over the Khumbu (Everest), Rolwaling, and adjacent southern areas. Therefore, the ERA-Interim (0.75°) reanalysis has been dynamically refined to 25, 5, and 1 km (D1, D2, and D3) for one complete hydrological year (October 2014–September 2015), using the one-way nested WRF model run with mild nudging and parameterized convection for the outer but explicitly resolved convection for the inner domains. Our results suggest that D3 realistically reproduces the monsoonal precipitation, as compared to its underestimation by D1 but overestimation by D2. All three resolutions, however, overestimate precipitation from the westerly disturbances, owing to simulating anomalously higher intensity of few intermittent events. Temperatures are generally reproduced well by all resolutions; however, winter and pre-monsoon seasons feature a high cold bias for high elevations while lower elevations show a simultaneous warm bias. Unlike higher resolutions, D1 fails to realistically reproduce the regional-scale nocturnal monsoonal peak precipitation observed in the Himalayan foothills and its diurnal shift towards high elevations, whereas D2 resolves these characteristics but exhibits a limited skill in reproducing such a peak on the river valley scale due to the limited representation of the narrow valleys at 5 km resolution. Nonetheless, featuring a substantial skill over D1 and D2, D3 simulates almost realistic shapes of the seasonal and diurnal precipitation and the peak timings even on valley scales. These findings clearly suggest an added value of the convective-scale resolutions in realistically resolving the topoclimates over the central Himalayas, which in turn allows simulating their interactions with the synoptic-scale weather systems prevailing over high Asia.

Short summary
Dynamical downscaling of climate fields at very high resolutions (convection- and topography-resolving scales) over the complex Himalayan terrain of the Nepalese Himalayas shows promising results. It clearly demonstrates the potential of mesoscale models to accurately simulate present and future climate information at very high resolutions over remote, data-scarce mountainous regions for the development of adaptation strategies and impact assessments in the context of changing climate.
Final-revised paper