Metrics for Evaluating CMIP6 Representation of Daily Precipitation Probability Distributions

Cristian Martinez-Villalobos, J. David Neelin, ANGELINE G. PENDERGRASS

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The performance of GCMs in simulating daily precipitation probability distributions is investigated by comparing 35 CMIP6 models against observational datasets (TRMM-3B42 and GPCP). In these observational datasets, PDFs on wet days follow a power-law range for low and moderate intensities below a characteristic precipitation cutoff scale. Beyond the cutoff scale, the probability drops much faster, hence controlling the size of extremes in a given climate. In the satellite products analyzed, PDFs have no interior peak. Contributions to the first and second moments tend to be single-peaked, implying a single dominant precipitation scale; the relationship to the cutoff scale and log-precipitation coordinate and normalization of frequency density are outlined. Key metrics investigated include the fraction of wet days, PDF power-law exponent, cutoff scale, shape of probability distributions, and number of probability peaks. The simulated power-law exponent and cutoff scale generally fall within observational bounds, although these bounds are large; GPCP systematically displays a smaller exponent and cutoff scale than TRMM-3B42. Most models simulate a more complex PDF shape than these observational datasets, with both PDFs and contributions exhibiting additional peaks in many regions. In most of these instances, one peak can be attributed to large-scale precipitation and the other to convective precipitation. Similar to previous CMIP phases, most models also rain too often and too lightly. These differences in wet-day fraction and PDF shape occur primarily over oceans and may relate to deterministic scales in precipitation parameterizations. It is argued that stochastic parameterizations may contribute to simplifying simulated distributions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5719-5743
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Climate
Volume35
Issue number17
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2022
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Climate models
  • Diagnostics
  • General circulation models
  • Model comparison
  • Model evaluation/performance
  • Precipitation

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