Can local climate variability be explained by weather patterns? A multi-station evaluation for the Rhine basin
Abstract. To understand past flood changes in the Rhine catchment and in particular the role of anthropogenic climate change in extreme flows, an attribution study relying on a proper GCM (general circulation model) downscaling is needed. A downscaling based on conditioning a stochastic weather generator on weather patterns is a promising approach. This approach assumes a strong link between weather patterns and local climate, and sufficient GCM skill in reproducing weather pattern climatology. These presuppositions are unprecedentedly evaluated here using 111 years of daily climate data from 490 stations in the Rhine basin and comprehensively testing the number of classification parameters and GCM weather pattern characteristics. A classification based on a combination of mean sea level pressure, temperature, and humidity from the ERA20C reanalysis of atmospheric fields over central Europe with 40 weather types was found to be the most appropriate for stratifying six local climate variables. The corresponding skill is quite diverse though, ranging from good for radiation to poor for precipitation. Especially for the latter it was apparent that pressure fields alone cannot sufficiently stratify local variability. To test the skill of the latest generation of GCMs from the CMIP5 ensemble in reproducing the frequency, seasonality, and persistence of the derived weather patterns, output from 15 GCMs is evaluated. Most GCMs are able to capture these characteristics well, but some models showed consistent deviations in all three evaluation criteria and should be excluded from further attribution analysis.