IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group I: The Physical Science Basis

11.4.2 Skill of Models in Simulating Present Climate

Regional mean temperature and precipitation in the MMD models show biases when compared with observed climate (Supplementary Material Table S11.1). The multi-model mean shows a cold and wet bias in all regions and in most seasons, and the bias of the annual average temperature ranges from –2.5°C over the Tibetan Plateau (TIB) to –1.4°C over South Asia (SAS). For most regions, there is a 6°C to 7°C range in the biases from individual models with a reduced bias range in Southeast Asia (SEA) of 3.6°C. The median bias in precipitation is small (less than 10%) in Southeast Asia, South Asia, and Central Asia (CAS), larger in northern Asia and East Asia (NAS and EAS, around +23%), and very large in the Tibetan Plateau (+110%). Annual biases in individual models are in the range of –50 to +60% across all regions except the Tibetan Plateau, where some models simulate annual precipitation 2.5 times that observed and even larger seasonal biases occur in winter and spring. These global models clearly have significant problems over Tibet, due to the difficulty in simulating the effects of the dramatic topographic relief, as well as the distorted albedo feedbacks due to extensive snow cover. However, with only limited observations available, predominantly in valleys, large errors in temperature and significant underestimates of precipitation are likely.

South Asia

Over South Asia, the summer is dominated by the southwest monsoon, which spans the four months from June to September and dominates the seasonal cycles of the climatic parameters. While most models simulate the general migration of seasonal tropical rain, the observed maximum rainfall during the monsoon season along the west coast of India, the north Bay of Bengal and adjoining northeast India is poorly simulated by many models (Lal and Harasawa, 2001; Rupa Kumar and Ashrit, 2001; Rupa Kumar et al., 2002, 2003). This is likely linked to the coarse resolution of the models, as the heavy rainfall over these regions is generally associated with the steep orography. However, the simulated annual cycles in South Asian mean precipitation and surface air temperature are reasonably close to the observed (Supplementary Material Figure S11.24). The MMD models capture the general regional features of the monsoon, such as the low rainfall amounts coupled with high variability over northwest India. However, there has not yet been sufficient analysis of whether finer details of regional significance are simulated more adequately in the MMD models.

Recent work indicates that time-slice experiments using an AGCM with prescribed SSTs, as opposed to a fully coupled system, are not able to accurately capture the South Asian monsoon response (Douville, 2005). Thus, neglecting the short-term SST feedback and variability seems to have a significant impact on the projected monsoon response to global warming, complicating the regional downscaling problem. However, May (2004a) notes that the high-resolution (about 1.5 degrees) European Centre-Hamburg (ECHAM4) GCM simulates the variability and extremes of daily rainfall (intensity as well as frequency of wet days) in good agreement with the observations (Global Precipitation Climatology Project, Huffman et al., 2001).

Three-member ensembles of baseline simulations (1961–1990) from an RCM (PRECIS) at 50 km resolution have confirmed that significant improvements in the representation of regional processes over South Asia can be achieved (Rupa Kumar et al., 2006). For example, the steep gradients in monsoon precipitation with a maximum along the western coast of India are well represented in PRECIS.