Effects of air-sea coupling over the North Sea and the Baltic Sea on simulated summer precipitation over Central Europe


This study introduces a new approach to investigate the potential effects of air-sea coupling on simulated precipitation inland over Central Europe. We present an inter-comparison of two regional climate models (RCMs), namely, the COSMO-CLM (hereafter CCLM) and RCA4 models, which are configured for the EURO-CORDEX domain in the coupled and atmosphere-only modes. Two versions of the CCLM model, namely, 4.8 and 5.0, join the inter-comparison being almost two different models while providing pronouncedly different summer precipitation simulations because of many changes in the dynamics and physics of CCLM in version 5.0. The coupling effect on the prominent summer dry bias over Central Europe is analysed using seasonal (JJA) mean statistics for the 30-year period from 1979 to 2009, with a focus on extreme precipitation under specific weather regimes. The weather regimes are compared between the coupled and uncoupled simulations to better understand the mechanism of the coupling effects. The comparisons of the coupled systems with the atmosphere-only models show that coupling clearly reduces the dry bias over Central Europe for CCLM 4.8, which has a large dry summer bias, but not for CCLM 5.0 and RCA4, which have smaller dry biases. This result implies that if the atmosphere-only model already yields reasonable summer precipitation over Central Europe, not much room for improvement exists that can be caused by the air-sea coupling over the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. However, if the atmosphere-only model shows a pronounced summer dry bias because of a lack of moisture transport from the seas into the region, the considered coupling may create an improved simulation of summer precipitation over Central Europe, such as for CCLM 4.8. For the latter, the benefit of coupling varies over the considered timescales. The precipitation simulations that are generated by the coupled system COSTRICE 4.8 and the atmosphere-only CCLM 4.8 are mostly identical for the summer mean. However, the COSTRICE simulations are generally more accurate than the atmosphere-only CCLM simulations if extreme precipitation is considered, particularly under Northerly Circulation conditions, in which the airflow from the North Atlantic Ocean passes the North Sea in the coupling domain. The air-sea feedback (e.g., wind, evaporation and sea surface temperature) and land-sea interactions are better reproduced with the COSTRICE model system than the atmosphere-only CCLM and lead to an improved simulation of large-scale moisture convergence from the sea to land and, consequently, increased heavy precipitation over Central Europe.
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