Development and Evaluation of High-Resolution Climate Simulations over the Mountainous Northeastern United States

TitleDevelopment and Evaluation of High-Resolution Climate Simulations over the Mountainous Northeastern United States
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsWinter, Jonathan M., Beckage Brian, Bucini Gabriela, and Clemins Patrick J.
JournalJournal of Hydrometeorology
Start Page881
Keywordsapplications, circulation, Climate models, DYNAMICS, geographic location/entity, mathematical and statistical techniques, models, North America, observational techniques and algorithms, regional effects, surface observations, topographic effects

The mountain regions of the northeastern United States are a critical socioeconomic resource for Vermont, New York State, New Hampshire, Maine, and southern Quebec. While global climate models (GCMs) are important tools for climate change risk assessment at regional scales, even the increased spatial resolution of statistically downscaled GCMs (commonly ~⅛°) is not sufficient for hydrologic, ecologic, and land-use modeling of small watersheds within the mountainous Northeast. To address this limitation, an ensemble of topographically downscaled, high-resolution (30″), daily 2-m maximum air temperature; 2-m minimum air temperature; and precipitation simulations are developed for the mountainous Northeast by applying an additional level of downscaling to intermediately downscaled (⅛°) data using high-resolution topography and station observations. First, observed relationships between 2-m air temperature and elevation and between precipitation and elevation are derived. Then, these relationships are combined with spatial interpolation to enhance the resolution of intermediately downscaled GCM simulations. The resulting topographically downscaled dataset is analyzed for its ability to reproduce station observations. Topographic downscaling adds value to intermediately downscaled maximum and minimum 2-m air temperature at high-elevation stations, as well as moderately improves domain-averaged maximum and minimum 2-m air temperature. Topographic downscaling also improves mean precipitation but not daily probability distributions of precipitation. Overall, the utility of topographic downscaling is dependent on the initial bias of the intermediately downscaled product and the magnitude of the elevation adjustment. As the initial bias or elevation adjustment increases, more value is added to the topographically downscaled product.