CORDEX scenarios for Europe from the Rossby Centre regional climate model RCA4

Type: Report
Series: RMK 116
Author: Gustav Strandberg, Lars Bärring, Ulf Hansson, Christer Jansson, Colin Jones, Erik Kjellström, Michael Kolax, Marco Kupiainen, Grigory Nikulin, Patrick Samuelsson, Anders Ullerstig and Shiyu Wang


This report documents Coordinated Regional Downscaling Experiment (CORDEX) climate model simulations at 50 km horizontal resolution over Europe with the Rossby Centre regional atmospheric model (RCA4) for i) a ERA-Interim-driven (ERAINT) simulation used to evaluate model performance in the recent past climate, ii) historical simulations of the recent decades with forcing from nine different global climate models (GCMs) and iii) future scenarios RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5 forced by the same nine different GCMs.Those simulations represent a subset of all CORDEX simulations produced at the Rossby Centre and a general conclusion drawn at the Rossby Centre is that such large ensembles could not have been produced without the establishment of an efficient production chain as outlined here.

The first part of this report documents RCA4 and its performance in a perfect boundary simulation where ERAINT was downscaled. RCA4 is to a large extent replicating the large-scale circulation in ERAINT, but some local biases in mean sea level pressure appear. In general the seasonal cycles of temperature and precipitation are simulated in relatively close agreement to observations. Some biases occur, such as too much precipitation in northern Europe and too little in the south. In winter, there is also too much precipitation in eastern Europe. Temperatures are generally biased low in northern Europe and in the Mediterranean region in winter while overestimated temperatures are seen in southeastern Europe in winter and in the Mediterranean area in summer.

RCA4 performs generally well when simulating the recent past climate taking boundary conditions from the GCMs. A large part of the RCA4 simulated climate is attributed to the driving GCMs, but RCA4 creates its own climate inside the model domain and adds details due to higher resolution. All nine downscaled GCMs share problems in their representation of the large-scale circulation in winter. This feature is inherited in RCA4. The biases in large-scale circulation induce some biases in temperature and precipitation in RCA4.

The climate change signal in the RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5 ensembles simulated by RCA4 is very similar to what has been presented previously. Both scenarios RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5 project Europe to be warmer in the future. In winter the warming is largest in northern Europe and in summer in southern Europe. The summer maximum daily temperature increases in a way similar to summer temperature, but somewhat more in southern Europe. The winter minimum daily temperature in northern Europe is the temperature that changes the most. Precipitation is projected to increase in all seasons in northern Europe and decrease in southern Europe. The largest amount of rainfall per day (and per seven day period) is projected to increase in almost all of Europe and in all seasons. At the same time the longest period without precipitation is projected to be longer in southern Europe. Small changes in mean wind speed are generally projected. There are, however, regions with significant changes in wind.

The ensemble approach is a way to describe the uncertainties in the scenarios, but there are other possible ensembles using other models which would give other results. Still, the ensemble used here is found to be similar enough to these other possible ensembles to be representative of the whole set of GCMs. Dynamical downscaling using RCA4 changes the climate change signal, and the ensemble spread is sometimes reduced, but the ensemble of nine RCA4 simulations, using different GCMs, is considered to be representative of the full ensemble. All scenarios agree on a climate change pattern; the amplitude of the change is determined by the choice of scenario. The relative importance of the chosen scenario increases with time.