Articles | Volume 7, issue 1
Geosci. Model Dev., 7, 387–405, 2014
Geosci. Model Dev., 7, 387–405, 2014

Development and technical paper 21 Feb 2014

Development and technical paper | 21 Feb 2014

TopoSCALE v.1.0: downscaling gridded climate data in complex terrain

J. Fiddes1 and S. Gruber2 J. Fiddes and S. Gruber
  • 1Department of Geography, University of Zurich, Switzerland
  • 2Department of Geography & Environmental Studies, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada

Abstract. Simulation of land surface processes is problematic in heterogeneous terrain due to the the high resolution required of model grids to capture strong lateral variability caused by, for example, topography, and the lack of accurate meteorological forcing data at the site or scale it is required. Gridded data products produced by atmospheric models can fill this gap, however, often not at an appropriate spatial resolution to drive land-surface simulations. In this study we describe a method that uses the well-resolved description of the atmospheric column provided by climate models, together with high-resolution digital elevation models (DEMs), to downscale coarse-grid climate variables to a fine-scale subgrid. The main aim of this approach is to provide high-resolution driving data for a land-surface model (LSM).

The method makes use of an interpolation of pressure-level data according to topographic height of the subgrid. An elevation and topography correction is used to downscale short-wave radiation. Long-wave radiation is downscaled by deriving a cloud-component of all-sky emissivity at grid level and using downscaled temperature and relative humidity fields to describe variability with elevation. Precipitation is downscaled with a simple non-linear lapse and optionally disaggregated using a climatology approach.

We test the method in comparison with unscaled grid-level data and a set of reference methods, against a large evaluation dataset (up to 210 stations per variable) in the Swiss Alps. We demonstrate that the method can be used to derive meteorological inputs in complex terrain, with most significant improvements (with respect to reference methods) seen in variables derived from pressure levels: air temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and incoming long-wave radiation.

This method may be of use in improving inputs to numerical simulations in heterogeneous and/or remote terrain, especially when statistical methods are not possible, due to lack of observations (i.e. remote areas or future periods).