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WIREs Clim Change
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State‐of‐the‐art with regional climate models

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Regional climate models are used by a large number of groups, for more or less all regions of the world. Regional climate models are complementary to global climate models. A typical use of regional climate models is to add further detail to global climate analyses or simulations, or to study climate processes in more detail than global models allow. The relationship between global and regional climate models is much akin to that of global and regional weather forecasting models. Over the past 20 years, the development of regional climate models has led to increased resolution, longer model runs, and steps towards regional climate system models. During recent years, community efforts have started to emerge in earnest, which can be expected to further advance the state‐of‐the‐art in regional climate modeling. Applications of regional climate models span both the past and possible future climates, facilitating climate impact studies, information and support to climate policy, and adaptation. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Figure 1.

Some examples of RCM domains. Some of these are in use (e.g. NARCCAP, CLARIS, ENSEMBLES, RGMIP), some have been suggested. Yet other domains are being addressed, such as in the Arctic and Antarctica. There are variations of the domains shown for the different regions. (Reprinted with permission from Ref 82. Copyright 2009).

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Figure 2.

Precipitation over Japan as simulated (a) in a GCM run at T42 (about 280 km) resolution; (b) in an RCM at 60 km; (c) in an RCM at 20 km, and (d) according to combined radar and AMeDAS observations at 5 km.11 (Reprinted with permission from Ref 11. Copyright 2007)..

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Figure 3.

An example of how time‐slice runs with an RCM can be used to study climate change signals. The panel on the left shows observed annual mean temperature (1961–1990 mean). The middle panel shows a climate change signal derived from two modeled periods (i.e., time‐slices) of 1961–1990 and 2071–2100. The panel on the right shows the sum of the observed 1961–1990 conditions and the projected climate change signal.

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Figure 4.

Winter, summer, and annual temperature means from a transient regional climate change projection, analysed for successive 30‐year periods until 2100. The gradual emergence of climate change signals is obvious. Especially for the first 1–2 periods, internal variability can significantly either suppress or enhance the forced trends.

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Figure 5.

An example of RCM results on precipitation intensity in terms of return period over Denmark. Compared to observations, 12 km RCM results are better than 50 km RCM results (or GCM results, not shown). By means of aggregation of the 12 km results to 50 km, one can still note a difference, which signifies intricate added value. Also some climate change projection results are shown.

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Figure 6.

Percentage of variance in wintertime temperature (left panel) and summertime precipitation (right panel) due to four sources: choice of RCM, emission scenario (Scn), choice of GCM, and a measure of internal variability. These sources are not independent, so their sum exceeds 100.

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