09 Jun 2022
09 Jun 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal NHESS.

Droughts in Germany: Performance of Regional Climate Models in Reproducing Observed Characteristics

Dragan Petrovic1, Benjamin Fersch1, and Harald Kunstmann1,2 Dragan Petrovic et al.
  • 1Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research (IMK-IFU), Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Campus Alpin, Kreuzeckbahnstraße 19, 82467 Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
  • 2Institute of Geography and Center for Climate Resilience, University of Augsburg, Alter Postweg 118, 86159 Augsburg, Germany

Abstract. Droughts are among the most relevant natural disasters related to climate change. We evaluated different regional climate model outputs and their ability to reproduce observed drought indices in Germany and the near surroundings between 1980–2009. Both, outputs of an ensemble of six EURO-CORDEX models of 12.5 km grid resolution and outputs from a high resolution (5 km) WRF run were employed. The latter was especially tailored for the study region regarding the physics configuration. We investigated drought related variables and derived the 3 month Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI-3) to account for meteorological droughts. Based on that, we analyzed correlations, the 2003 event, trends and drought characteristics (frequency, duration and severity) and compared the results to E-OBS. Methods used imply Taylor diagrams, the Mann-Kendall trend test and the Spatial Efficiency (SPAEF) metric to account for spatial agreement of patterns. Averaged over the domain, meteorological droughts were found to occur approx. 16 times in the study period with an average duration of 3.1 months and average severity of 1.47 SPEI units. WRF’s resolution and setup was shown to be less important for the reproduction of the single drought event and overall drought characteristics. Depending on the specific goals of drought analyses, computation resources could therefore be saved, since a coarser resolution can provide similar results. Benefits of WRF were found in the correlation analysis. Greatest benefits were identified in the trend analysis: Only WRF was able to reproduce the observed negative SPEI trends in a fairly high spatial accuracy, while the other RCMs completely failed in this regard. This was mainly due to the WRF model settings, highlighting the importance of appropriate model configuration tailored to the target region. Our findings are especially relevant in the context of climate change studies, where the appropriate reproduction of trends is of high importance.

Dragan Petrovic et al.

Status: open (until 27 Jul 2022)

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  • RC1: 'Comment on nhess-2022-162', Anonymous Referee #1, 02 Jul 2022 reply

Dragan Petrovic et al.

Data sets

WRF model configuration and data used for the NHESS manuscript "Droughts in Germany: Performance of Regional Climate Models in reproducing observed characteristics" Dragan Petrovic

Dragan Petrovic et al.


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Short summary
The influence of model resolution and settings on drought reproduction in Germany between 1980–2009 is investigated here. Outputs from a high resolution model with settings tailored to the target region are compared to those from coarser resolution models with more general settings. Gridded observational datasets serve as reference. Regarding the reproduction of drought characteristics, all models perform on a similar level, while for trends, only the modified model produces reliable outputs.