Regional climate model applications on sub-regional scales over the Indian monsoon region: The role of domain size on downscaling uncertainty



[1] Regional climate models are becoming increasingly popular to provide high resolution climate change information for impacts assessments to inform adaptation options. Many countries and provinces requiring these assessments are as small as 200,000 km2 in size, significantly smaller than an ideal domain needed for successful applications of one-way nested regional climate models. Therefore assessments on sub-regional scales (e.g., river basins) are generally carried out using climate change simulations performed for relatively larger regions. Here we show that the seasonal mean hydrological cycle and the day-to-day precipitation variations of a sub-region within the model domain are sensitive to the domain size, even though the large scale circulation features over the region are largely insensitive. On seasonal timescales, the relatively smaller domains intensify the hydrological cycle by increasing the net transport of moisture into the study region and thereby enhancing the precipitation and local recycling of moisture. On daily timescales, the simulations run over smaller domains produce higher number of moderate precipitation days in the sub-region relative to the corresponding larger domain simulations. An assessment of daily variations of water vapor and the vertical velocity within the sub-region indicates that the smaller domains may favor more frequent moderate uplifting and subsequent precipitation in the region. The results remained largely insensitive to the horizontal resolution of the model, indicating the robustness of the domain size influence on the regional model solutions. These domain size dependent precipitation characteristics have the potential to add one more level of uncertainty to the downscaled projections.