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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2017-473
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Research article
27 Sep 2017
Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS).
An evaluation of the importance of spatial resolution in a global climate and hydrological model based on the Rhine and Mississippi basin
Imme Benedict1, Chiel C. van Heerwaarden1, Albrecht H. Weerts2,3, and Wilco Hazeleger1,4 1Meteorology and Air Quality Group, Wageningen University, Droevendaalsesteeg 4, 6708 BP Wageningen, The Netherlands
2Hydrology and Quantitative Water Management Group, Wageningen University, Droevendaalsesteeg 4, 6708 BP Wageningen, The Netherlands
3Deltares, P.O. Box 177, 2600 MH Delft, The Netherlands
4Netherlands eScience Center (NLeSC), Science Park 140, 1098 XG Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Abstract. The hydrological cycle of river basins can be simulated by combining global climate models (GCMs) and global hydrological models (GHMs). The spatial resolution of these models is restricted by computational resources and therefore limits the processes and level of detail that can be resolved. To further improve simulations of precipitation and river-runoff on a global scale, we assess and compare the benefits of an increased resolution for a GCM and a GHM. We focus on the Rhine and Mississippi basin. Increasing the resolution of a GCM (1.125° to 0.25°) results in more realistic large-scale circulation patterns over the Rhine and an improved precipitation budget. These improvements with increased resolution are not found for the Mississippi basin, most likely because precipitation is strongly dependent on the representation of still unresolved convective processes. Increasing the resolution of vegetation and orography in the high resolution GHM (from 0.5° to 0.05°) shows no significant differences in discharge for both basins, because the hydrological processes depend highly on other parameter values that are not readily available at high resolution. Therefore, increasing the resolution of the GCM provides the most straightforward route to better results. This route works best for basins driven by large-scale precipitation, such as the Rhine basin. For basins driven by convective processes, such as the Mississippi basin, improvements are expected with even higher resolution convection permitting models.

Citation: Benedict, I., van Heerwaarden, C. C., Weerts, A. H., and Hazeleger, W.: An evaluation of the importance of spatial resolution in a global climate and hydrological model based on the Rhine and Mississippi basin, Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. Discuss., https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2017-473, in review, 2017.
Imme Benedict et al.
Imme Benedict et al.
Imme Benedict et al.

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Short summary
The spatial resolution of global climate models (GCMs) and global hydrological models (GHMs) is increasing. This study examines the benefits of a very high resolution GCM and GHM on representing the hydrological cycle in the Rhine and Mississippi basin. We conclude that increasing the resolution of a GCM is the most straightforward route to better precipitation and thereby discharge results, although this is depending on the climatic drivers of the basin.
The spatial resolution of global climate models (GCMs) and global hydrological models (GHMs) is...
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