To investigate the influence of atmospheric model resolution on the representation of daily precipitation extremes, ensemble simulations with the atmospheric general circulation model ECHAM5 at different horizontal (T213 to T31) and vertical (L31 to L19) resolutions and forced with observed sea surface temperatures and sea ice concentrations have been carried out for 01/1982 - 09/2010. All results have been compared with the highest resolution, which has been validated against observations.
Resolution affects both the representation of physical processes and the averaging of precipitation across grid boxes. The latter, in particular, smoothes out localized extreme events. These effects have been disentangled by averaging precipitation simulated at the highest resolution to the corresponding coarser grid. Extremes are represented by seasonal maxima, modeled by the generalized extreme value distribution.
Effects of averaging and representation of physical processes vary with region and season. In the tropical summer hemisphere, extreme precipitation is reduced by up to 30% due to the averaging effect, and a further 65% owing to a coarser representation of physical processes. Towards mid- to high latitudes, the latter effect reduces to 20%; in the winter hemisphere it vanishes towards the poles. A strong drop is found between T106 and T63 in the convection dominated tropics. At the lowest resolution, northern hemisphere winter precipitation extremes, mainly caused by large scale weather systems, are in general represented reasonably well. Coarser vertical resolution causes an equatorward shift of maximum extreme precipitation in the tropics. The impact of vertical resolution on mean precipitation is less pronounced; for horizontal resolution it is negligible.