Articles | Volume 22, issue 2
Cutting-edge case studies
08 Feb 2018
Cutting-edge case studies |  | 08 Feb 2018

Assessment of the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model for simulation of extreme rainfall events in the upper Ganga Basin

Ila Chawla, Krishna K. Osuri, Pradeep P. Mujumdar, and Dev Niyogi

Abstract. Reliable estimates of extreme rainfall events are necessary for an accurate prediction of floods. Most of the global rainfall products are available at a coarse resolution, rendering them less desirable for extreme rainfall analysis. Therefore, regional mesoscale models such as the advanced research version of the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model are often used to provide rainfall estimates at fine grid spacing. Modelling heavy rainfall events is an enduring challenge, as such events depend on multi-scale interactions, and the model configurations such as grid spacing, physical parameterization and initialization. With this background, the WRF model is implemented in this study to investigate the impact of different processes on extreme rainfall simulation, by considering a representative event that occurred during 15–18 June 2013 over the Ganga Basin in India, which is located at the foothills of the Himalayas. This event is simulated with ensembles involving four different microphysics (MP), two cumulus (CU) parameterizations, two planetary boundary layers (PBLs) and two land surface physics options, as well as different resolutions (grid spacing) within the WRF model. The simulated rainfall is evaluated against the observations from 18 rain gauges and the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission Multi-Satellite Precipitation Analysis (TMPA) 3B42RT version 7 data. From the analysis, it should be noted that the choice of MP scheme influences the spatial pattern of rainfall, while the choice of PBL and CU parameterizations influences the magnitude of rainfall in the model simulations. Further, the WRF run with Goddard MP, Mellor–Yamada–Janjic PBL and Betts–Miller–Janjic CU scheme is found to perform best in simulating this heavy rain event. The selected configuration is evaluated for several heavy to extremely heavy rainfall events that occurred across different months of the monsoon season in the region. The model performance improved through incorporation of detailed land surface processes involving prognostic soil moisture evolution in Noah scheme compared to the simple Slab model. To analyse the effect of model grid spacing, two sets of downscaling ratios – (i) 1 : 3, global to regional (G2R) scale and (ii) 1 : 9, global to convection-permitting scale (G2C) – are employed. Results indicate that a higher downscaling ratio (G2C) causes higher variability and consequently large errors in the simulations. Therefore, G2R is adopted as a suitable choice for simulating heavy rainfall event in the present case study. Further, the WRF-simulated rainfall is found to exhibit less bias when compared with the NCEP FiNaL (FNL) reanalysis data.

Short summary
For realistic flood predictions, it is necessary to have accurate rainfall estimates. The Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model is often used to correctly simulate heavy rainfall events, but setting up the model over a region is a challenging task. In this study, the sensitivity of the WRF model is assessed for physics schemes, parameterization options, land surface models and downscaling ratios, by simulating several extreme rainfall events in the Ganges basin.