Evaluation of a Reanalysis-Driven Configuration of WRF4 Over the Western United States From 1980-2020.


Rahimi, Stefan, W Krantz, Y Lin, B Bass, N Goldenson, A Hall, Z Lebo, and J Norris. 2022. “Evaluation of a Reanalysis-Driven Configuration of WRF4 Over the Western United States From 1980-2020.” Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres 127 (4): e2021JD035699.


Dynamical downscaling remains a powerful tool for studying regional climate processes, and the genesis of high-resolution historical and future climate data. This technique is particularly important over areas of complex terrain, such as the western United States (WUS), where global models are especially limited in representing regional climate. After identifying a suite of WRF options that best simulate snow and precipitation for an average water year (2010) over the WUS, we evaluate the performance of the dynamically downscaled European Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecasting's fifth Reanalysis (ERA5) from 1980 to 2020 on 45-km, 9-km, and two 3-km grids. We find that by decreasing the horizontal grid spacing within WRF, improvements to Sierra Nevada and Northern Rocky Mountain snow, Santa Ana and Diablo winds, and coastal meteorology occur. For landfalling atmospheric rivers (ARs), the downscaled reanalysis simulates greater upstream integrated vapor transport (IVT) than ERA5. However, WRF skillfully simulates the positioning of the IVT and the timing and magnitude of AR precipitation. This potential IVT bias, in conjunction with increasing resolution, leads to a wet precipitation bias across the Sierra Nevada in the 3-km experiment. This conclusion is supported by streamflow analysis, although we note that the bias in the 3-km experiment can also be explained by in situ undercatch issues. Meanwhile, the 9-km experiment is more biased than the 3-km experiment across the Northern Rocky Mountains compared to in situ measured SWE and precipitation, indicating a geographic sensitivity to biases.

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Last updated on 09/26/2022