Evaluation of trends in extreme temperatures simulated by HighResMIP models across Europe

Squintu, Antonello A.; Schrier, Gerard van der; Besselaar, Else van den; Linden, Eveline van der; Putrasahan, Dian; Roberts, Christopher; Roberts, Malcolm; Scoccimarro, Enrico; Senan, Retish; Klein Tank, Albert


Simulation of past climate is an important tool for the validation of climate models. The comparison with observed daily values allows us to assess the reliability of their projections on climatic extremes in a future climate. The frequency and amplitude of extreme events are fundamental aspects that climate simulations need to reproduce as they have high impacts on economy and society. The ability to simulate them will help policy makers in taking better measures to face climate change. This work aims at evaluating how six models within the High Resolution Model Intercomparison Project reproduce the trends on extreme indices as they have been observed over Europe in the 1970–2014 period. Observed values are provided by the new homogenized version of the E-OBS gridded dataset. The comparison is performed through the use of indices based on seasonal averages and on exceedances of percentile-based thresholds, focusing on six subregions. Winter-average minimum temperature is generally underestimated by models (down to − 4 °C difference over Italy and Norway) while simulated trends in seasonal averages and extreme values are found to be too cold on Eastern Europe and too warm on Iberia and Southern Europe (e.g. up to a difference of − 4% per decade on the number of Cold Nights over Spain). On the other hand the models tend to overestimate summer maximum temperatures averages in the Mediterranean Area (up to + 5 °C over the Balkans) and underestimate these at higher latitudes. Iberia, Southern and Eastern Europe are simulated with too low trends in average summer temperatures. The simulated trends are too strong on the North West part and too weak on the South East part of Europe (down to − 3%/decade on the number of Warm Days over Italy and Western Balkans). These results corroborate the findings of previous studies about the underestimation of the warming trends of summer temperatures in Southern Europe, where these are more intense and have more impacts. The high-resolution versions of the models are compared to their lower-resolution counterparts, similar to those used in the CMIP5, showing a slight improvement for the simulation of extreme winter minimum temperatures, while no significant progresses have been found for extreme summer maximum temperatures.