What model resolution is required in climatological downscaling over complex terrain?

Renalda El-Samra, Elie R. Bou-Zeid, Mutasem El-Fadel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


This study presents results from the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model applied for climatological downscaling simulations over highly complex terrain along the Eastern Mediterranean. We sequentially downscale general circulation model results, for a mild and wet year (2003) and a hot and dry year (2010), to three local horizontal resolutions of 9, 3 and 1 km. Simulated near-surface hydrometeorological variables are compared at different time scales against data from an observational network over the study area comprising rain gauges, anemometers, and thermometers. The overall performance of WRF at 1 and 3 km horizontal resolution was satisfactory, with significant improvement over the 9 km downscaling simulation. The total yearly precipitation from WRF's 1 km and 3 km domains exhibited < 10% bias with respect to observational data. The errors in minimum and maximum temperatures were reduced by the downscaling, along with a high-quality delineation of temperature variability and extremes for both the 1 and 3 km resolution runs. Wind speeds, on the other hand, are generally overestimated for all model resolutions, in comparison with observational data, particularly on the coast (up to 50%) compared to inland stations (up to 40%). The findings therefore indicate that a 3 km resolution is sufficient for the downscaling, especially that it would allow more years and scenarios to be investigated compared to the higher 1 km resolution at the same computational effort. In addition, the results provide a quantitative measure of the potential errors for various hydrometeorological variables.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)68-82
Number of pages15
JournalAtmospheric Research
StatePublished - May 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


  • High resolution dynamical downscaling
  • Mesoscale modeling over complex terrain
  • Regional climate model
  • Weather research and forecasting model


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