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Impact of model resolution on simulating the water vapor transport through the central Himalayas: implication for models’ wet bias over the Tibetan Plateau

Journal article
Authors Changgui Lin
Deliang Chen
Kun Yang
Tinghai Ou
Published in Climate Dynamics
Volume 51
Issue 9-10
Pages 3195–3207
ISSN 0930-7575
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Earth Sciences
Pages 3195–3207
Language en
Keywords Himalayas, Resolution dependency, Tibetan Plateau, Water vapor transport, Wet bias
Subject categories Climate Research, Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences


© 2018 The Author(s) Current climate models commonly overestimate precipitation over the Tibetan Plateau (TP), which limits our understanding of past and future water balance in the region. Identifying sources of such models’ wet bias is therefore crucial. The Himalayas is considered a major pathway of water vapor transport (WVT) towards the TP. Their steep terrain, together with associated small-scale processes, cannot be resolved by coarse-resolution models, which may result in excessive WVT towards the TP. This paper, therefore, investigated the resolution dependency of simulated WVT through the central Himalayas and its further impact on precipitation bias over the TP. According to a summer monsoon season of simulations conducted using the weather research forecasting (WRF) model with resolutions of 30, 10, and 2 km, the study found that finer resolutions (especially 2 km) diminish the positive precipitation bias over the TP. The higher-resolution simulations produce more precipitation over the southern Himalayan slopes and weaker WVT towards the TP, explaining the reduced wet bias. The decreased WVT is reflected mostly in the weakened wind speed, which is due to the fact that the high resolution can improve resolving orographic drag over a complex terrain and other processes associated with heterogeneous surface forcing. A significant difference was particularly found when the model resolution is changed from 30 to 10 km, suggesting that a resolution of approximately 10 km represents a good compromise between a more spatially detailed simulation of WVT and computational cost for a domain covering the whole TP.

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