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Improved atmospheric circulation over Europe by the new generation of CMIP6 Earth System Models

Journal: Climate Dynamics
Year: 2020  
Status: In print
In this status since: 12 Jan 2021
PDF file: 2021_FernandezGranja_ClimDyn.pdf

Global Climate Models (GCMs) generally exhibit significant biases in the representation of large-scale atmospheric circulation. Even after a sensible bias adjustment these errors remain and are inherited to some extent by the derived downscaling products, impairing the credibility of future regional projections. In this study we perform a process-based validation of state-of-the-art GCMs from CMIP5 and CMIP6, with a focus on the simulation of the synoptic climatological patterns having a most prominent effect on the European climate. To this aim, we use the Lamb Weather Type Classiffication (LWT, Lamb, 1972), a subjective classiffication of circulation weather types constructed upon historical simulations of daily mean sea-level pressure. Observational uncertainty has been taken into account by considering four different reanalysis products of varying characteristics. Our evaluation unveils an overall improvement of salient atmospheric circulation features consistent across observational references, although this is uneven across models and large frequency biases still remain for the main LWTs. Some CMIP6 models attain similar or even worse results than their CMIP5 counterparts, although in most cases consistent improvements have been found, demonstrating the ability of the new models to better capture key synoptic conditions. In light of the large differences found across models, we advocate for a careful selection of driving GCMs in downscaling experiments with a special focus on large-scale atmospheric circulation aspects.