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Keywords:

  • spectral nudging;
  • regional models;
  • downscaling

[1] It is well known that regional climate simulations are sensitive to the size and position of the domain chosen for calculations. Here we study the physical mechanisms of this sensitivity. We conducted simulations with the Regional Atmospheric Modeling System (RAMS) for June 2000 over North America at 50 km horizontal resolution using a 7500 km × 5400 km grid and NCEP/NCAR reanalysis as boundary conditions. The position of the domain was displaced in several directions, always maintaining the U.S. in the interior, out of the buffer zone along the lateral boundaries. Circulation biases developed a large scale structure, organized by the Rocky Mountains, resulting from a systematic shifting of the synoptic wave trains that crossed the domain. The distortion of the large-scale circulation was produced by interaction of the modeled flow with the lateral boundaries of the nested domain and varied when the position of the grid was altered. This changed the large-scale environment among the different simulations and translated into diverse conditions for the development of the mesoscale processes that produce most of precipitation for the Great Plains in the summer season. As a consequence, precipitation results varied, sometimes greatly, among the experiments with the different grid positions. To eliminate the dependence of results on the position of the domain, we used spectral nudging of waves longer than 2500 km above the boundary layer. Moisture was not nudged at any level. This constrained the synoptic scales to follow reanalysis while allowing the model to develop the small-scale dynamics responsible for the rainfall. Nudging of the large scales successfully eliminated the variation of precipitation results when the grid was moved. We suggest that this technique is necessary for all downscaling studies with regional models with domain sizes of a few thousand kilometers and larger embedded in global models.