Sensitivity of the WRF model to PBL parametrisations and nesting techniques: evaluation of wind storms over complex terrain
Abstract. Simulating surface wind over complex terrain is a challenge in regional climate modelling. Therefore, this study aims at identifying a set-up of the Weather Research and Forecasting Model (WRF) model that minimises systematic errors of surface winds in hindcast simulations. Major factors of the model configuration are tested to find a suitable set-up: the horizontal resolution, the planetary boundary layer (PBL) parameterisation scheme and the way the WRF is nested to the driving data set. Hence, a number of sensitivity simulations at a spatial resolution of 2 km are carried out and compared to observations. Given the importance of wind storms, the analysis is based on case studies of 24 historical wind storms that caused great economic damage in Switzerland. Each of these events is downscaled using eight different model set-ups, but sharing the same driving data set. The results show that the lack of representation of the unresolved topography leads to a general overestimation of wind speed in WRF. However, this bias can be substantially reduced by using a PBL scheme that explicitly considers the effects of non-resolved topography, which also improves the spatial structure of wind speed over Switzerland. The wind direction, although generally well reproduced, is not very sensitive to the PBL scheme. Further sensitivity tests include four types of nesting methods: nesting only at the boundaries of the outermost domain, analysis nudging, spectral nudging, and the so-called re-forecast method, where the simulation is frequently restarted. These simulations show that restricting the freedom of the model to develop large-scale disturbances slightly increases the temporal agreement with the observations, at the same time that it further reduces the overestimation of wind speed, especially for maximum wind peaks. The model performance is also evaluated in the outermost domains, where the resolution is coarser. The results demonstrate the important role of horizontal resolution, where the step from 6 to 2 km significantly improves model performance. In summary, the combination of a grid size of 2 km, the non-local PBL scheme modified to explicitly account for non-resolved orography, as well as analysis or spectral nudging, is a superior combination when dynamical downscaling is aimed at reproducing real wind fields.