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Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Research article
09 Jan 2018
Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences (NHESS).
Stochastic downscaling of precipitation in complex orography: a simple method to reproduce a realistic fine-scale climatology
Silvia Terzago, Elisa Palazzi, and Jost von Hardenberg Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate, National Research Council of Italy, Corso Fiume 4, Turin, Italy
Abstract. Stochastic rainfall downscaling methods usually do not take into account orographic effects or local precipitation features at spatial scales finer than those resolved by the large-scale input field. For this reason they may be less reliable in areas with complex topography or with sub-grid surface heterogeneities. Here we test a simple method to introduce realistic fine-scale precipitation patterns into the downscaled fields, with the objective of producing downscaled data more suitable for climatological and hydrological applications as well as for extreme events studies. The proposed method relies on the availability of a reference fine-scale precipitation climatology from which corrective weights for the downscaled fields are derived. We demonstrate the method by applying it to the Rainfall Filtered AutoRegressive Model (RainFARM) stochastic rainfall downscaling algorithm.

The modified RainFARM method has been tested focusing on an area of complex topography encompassing the Swiss Alps, first, in a perfect model experiment in which high resolution (4 km) simulations performed with the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) regional model are aggregated to a coarser resolution (64 km) and then downscaled back to 4 km and compared with the original data. Second, the modified RainFARM is applied to the E-OBS gridded precipitation data (0.25 degrees spatial resolution) over Switzerland, where high-quality gridded precipitation climatologies and accurate in-situ observations are available for comparison with the downscaled data for the period 1981–2010.

The results of the perfect model experiment confirm a clear improvement in the description of the precipitation distribution when the RainFARM stochastic downscaling is applied, either with or without the implemented orographic adjustment. When we separately analyze areas with precipitation climatology higher or lower than the median calculated over all the points in the domain, we find that the Probability Density Function (PDF) of the real precipitation is better reproduced using the modified RainFARM rather than the standard RainFARM method. In fact, the modified method successfully assigns more precipitation to areas where precipitation is on average more abundant according to a reference long-term climatology.

The results of the E-OBS downscaling show that the modified RainFARM introduces improvements in the representation of precipitation amplitudes. While for low-precipitation areas the downscaled and the observed PDFs are in excellent agreement, for high-precipitation areas residual differences persist, mainly related to known E-OBS deficiencies in properly representing the correct range of precipitation values in the Alpine region. The downscaling method discussed is not intended to correct the bias eventually present in the coarse-scale data, so possible biases should be adjusted before applying the downscaling procedure.

Citation: Terzago, S., Palazzi, E., and von Hardenberg, J.: Stochastic downscaling of precipitation in complex orography: a simple method to reproduce a realistic fine-scale climatology, Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci. Discuss.,, in review, 2018.
Silvia Terzago et al.
Silvia Terzago et al.
Silvia Terzago et al.


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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
This study proposes a simple technique that can be applied to stochastic precipitation downscaling methods to improve the representation of the fine-scale daily precipitation in complex and spatially heterogeneous regions such as mountain areas. This method has been found to reconstruct the small-scale precipitation distribution in the Alpine area and it can be employed in a number of applications, including the analysis of extreme events and their statistics, and hydro-meteorological hazards.
This study proposes a simple technique that can be applied to stochastic precipitation...