Lessons from inter-comparison of decadal climate simulations and observations for the Midwest U.S. and Great Lakes region

Ashish Sharma, Alan F. Hamlet, Harindra J.S. Fernando

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Even with advances in climate modeling, meteorological impact assessment remains elusive, and decision-makers are forced to operate with potentially malinformed predictions. In this article, we investigate the dependence of the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model simulated precipitation and temperature at 12- and 4-km horizontal resolutions and compare it with 32-km NARR data and 1/16th-degree gridded observations for the Midwest U.S. and Great Lakes region from 1991 to 2000. We used daily climatology, inter-annual variability, percentile, and dry days as metrics for inter-comparison for precipitation. We also calculated the summer and winter daily seasonal minimum, maximum, and average temperature to delineate the temperature trends. Results showed that NARR data is a useful precipitation product for mean warm season and summer climatological studies, but performs extremely poorly for winter and cold seasons for this region. WRF model simulations at 12- and 4-km horizontal resolutions were able to capture the lake-effect precipitation successfully when driven by observed lake surface temperatures. Simulations at 4-km showed negative bias in capturing precipitation without convective parameterization but captured the number of dry days and 99th percentile precipitation extremes well. Overall, our study cautions against hastily pushing for increasingly higher resolution in climate studies, and highlights the need for the careful selection of large-scale boundary forcing data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number266
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2019



  • Climate extremes
  • Climatology
  • Precipitation
  • Regional climate modeling
  • Temperature
  • WRF model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)

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