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Endorsed Flagship Pilot Studies

At the moment there are
13 endorsed CORDEX Flagship Pilot Studies.

Rainfall responses to climate change in a convective-permitting model over Western Cape (HighResWC)

Cities formed where resources such as safe harbours, mining and freshwater are easily accessible. While many cities developed due to ready access to water, population growth, economic development, and competing demands for water from industry and agriculture have increased the demand for water resources and made cities more vulnerable to rainfall variability and change. There is growing evidence that climate change is already impacting water resources globally and climate variability and change is almost certain to continue to change the distribution and quantity of freshwater resources posing serious socio-economic challenges with negative impacts on the way of life. The city of Cape Town experienced a water crisis with an acute phase that started in early 2017. This was considered the worst water shortage in 113 years (Botai el al 2017) and was due to a long-term deficit in rainfall. Such events are likely to occur more frequently in the future due to climate change (Otto et al 2018). While the slow changes in rainfall patterns are detectable, their temporal structure and spatial patterns are complex, which makes understanding their causes and linkages to regional and global variability and change difficult (Wolski et al. 2020). Fundamental dynamics governing changes in this topographically diverse terrain, especially those in response to increases in greenhouse gases is therefore important for better planning.

Currently, bespoke climate information products and services are produced using data from global models (usually 100s km resolution) and regional models (usually 25km to 50km). However, higher resolution modeling that captures local processes such as orographic enhancement of rainfall and convection is important in this complex region. The use of convection permitting modeling (CPM, horizontal grid spacing <4km) has emerged recently (e.g. Prein et al 2015, Coppola et al 2018), which allows us to understand and simulate processes not resolved in global models. The motivation has been fueled by the gap between climate information provided by current state-of-the-art climate models and the local-scale, actionable information required by stakeholders and policy makers (eg., Gutowski et al 2020). The role of local topography in altering the regional response to climate change has been a standing question for 20+ years and we propose using CPM to reduce the associated uncertainty.  Therefore, this study will make the use of high-resolution modelling (~4km) over the Western Cape region in South Africa and to use idealized pseudo-global warming (PGW, Schär et al 1996) experiments to represent a 2-degree global warming level. One advantage of the PGW method is to estimate the effect of changes in temperature on a specific year, which allows construction of easy to communicate storylines. This approach also simplifies the estimate of the climate difference between current and future climate without costly ensemble simulations and to attribute the changes.

The study aims at understanding drivers of mean and extreme rainfall in a region with complex topography (e.g., meso-scale processes, convection-subsidence over and around the sea-plains-mountains-interior plateau system). The changing characteristics of precipitation and related processes under human-induced climate change is of particular importance, and it is also timely.  They are also a priority under the WCRP Grand Challenge on climate extremes (GSQ#3), because they carry both society-relevant and scientific challenges that can be tackled in the coming years.


Contact person:
Izidine Pinto and Piotr Wolski

Newly endorsed

Melissa Bukovsky

URBan environments and Regional Climate Change (URB-RCC)

Cities play a fundamental role on climate at local to regional scales through modification of heat and moisture fluxes, as well as affecting local atmospheric chemistry and composition, alongside air-pollution dispersion. Vice versa, regional climate change impacts urban areas and is expected to more severely affect cities and their citizens in the upcoming decades. Simultaneously, the share of the population living in urban areas is growing, and is projected to reach about 70% of the world population up to 2050. This is especially critical in connection to extreme events, for instance heat waves with extremely high temperatures exacerbated by the urban heat island effect, in particular during night-time, with significant consequences for human health. Additionally, from the perspective of recent regional climate model developments with increasing resolution down to the city scale, proper parameterization of urban processes is starting to play an important role to understand local/regional climate change. The inclusion of the individual urban processes affecting energy balance and transport (i.e. heat, humidity, momentum fluxes) via special urban land-use parameterization of distinct local processes becom es vital to simulate the urban effects properly. This will enable improved assessment of climate change impacts in the cities and inform adaptation and/or mitigation options by urban decision-makers, as well as adequately prepare for climate related risks (e.g. heat waves, smog conditions etc.). Cities are becoming one of the most vulnerable environments under climate change. In 2013, the CORDEX community identified cities to be a prime scientific challenge. Though, until now no major collaborative efforts have happened, therefore increased cooperation dedicated to these aspects is highly relevant to the CORDEX community.

The main goal of this FPS is to understand the effect of urban areas on the regional climate, as well as the impact of regional climate change on cities, with the help of coordinated experiments with urbanized RCMs. This clearly complies with the first CORDEX FPS criterion to address regional to local scales problems and effects with local impacts, which cannot be addressed by the GCMs and is not included in the standard CORDEX framework. The proposed activities require the specific data, both for specific land-use parameterization and the observational data, which are available from the previous campaigns, to make the expected simulations and their validation complying with the second CORDEX FPS criterion. This FPS action can be supported by – and contributing to – Special IPCC Assessment Report planned for cities after AR6, WCRP Grand Challenges – Weather and Climate Extremes – on local scale, and SDG (Sustainable Development Goal) on sustainable cities (#11), climate action (#13) and health (#3), providing information for risk management in these aspects to urban stakeholders, which corresponds to the third CORDEX FPS criterion. As for the fourth criterion, urbanization is important for many groups participating in CORDEX activities and going across the CORDEX domains as big cities appear in each of them. Clearly, careful selection of targeted coordinated simulations have to be performed.


Contact person:
Tomas Halenka and Gaby Langendijk

Newly endorsed

Daniela Jacob

Dynamical downscaling experiments and hydrological modelling for Canada and Mexico

Weak (strong) thermal gradient and intense (weak) convective activity characterizes the tropical (extra tropical) atmosphere. For the tropics, the release of latent heat is the primary source of energy in the circulations of the region; while for the extra-tropics are the thermal gradients, Coriolis and the momentum fluxes associated to perturbations of all scales.

Earth System Models (ESMs) are a useful tool to contribute to the understanding of global circulation and generate climate change scenarios for the following decades. The resolution of these models is adequate to describe global circulation patterns, but not enough to describe the subcontinental processes important to North America, such as the effects of their abrupt orography or atmospheric processes at scales smaller than 10 km. That gap is filled up by performing dynamical downscaling, which requires regional models with the potential to increase to higher spatial resolutions.

Based on the contrasting nature of the tropics and the extra-tropics, this study proposes to carry out a dynamical downscaling experiment for North America (Mexico, the United States and Canada), using two of the CMIP6 ESMs with the “best performance” for the regions, in agreement with statistical metrics (Colorado et al., 2018), forcing the RegCM and WRF models, and evaluating their capabilities. The regional models will run under low resolution (45 km), medium resolution (15 km) and high-resolution (5 km) nesting grids, with the highest resolution covering two domains, one over a group of river basins located in the tropical zone of Mexico (namely Actopan, Antigua, Jamapa and Nautla) and a second one over a group of river basins located in the southern province of Quebec in Canada (namely Du Nord, Doncaster, Matawin, L´Assomption, Noire, Maskinonge, Du Loup and Taureau).

Some numerical experiments will be made with 2.5 km resolution over the group of river basins located in Mexico and Canada.

We propose to carry on a process-oriented verification in both subregions, considering its different regional processes, but applying the same methodologies to analyze the contributions of regional mechanisms under contrasting conditions that allow the understanding of high/low frequency atmospheric dynamics, acquiring a better-understanding of processes in contrasted environments.

Evaluating how well the models can reproduce the observations under different conditions is challenging since there are different modes of response to forcing with scales on the order of hours, days, months and years.

In the project, dynamical downscaling with the highest spatial resolution of 5 km using the “convection permitting” option will be applied, for the historical period: 1981-2010, near future: 2020-2049 and far future: 2070-2099, under two extreme climate change scenarios: SSP5-8.5 and SSP1-2.6, estimating the temporal and spatial variability over the two regions.

Some statistical downscaling techniques based on bias correction (such as Bias Correction/Constructed Analogues and Bias-Correction Spatial Disaggregation) and Perfect Prognosis will be applied to compare with the dynamical downscaling simulations. Comparisons with existing CORDEX simulations over the NAM and CAM domains will also be carried out.

And finally, the HYDROTEL distributed hydrological model will be run to better investigate the use of convection-permitting climate simulation outputs for the simulation of streamflows.


Contact person:
José Antonio Salinas Prieto

Newly endorsed

Wilfried Pokam

North America: Assessing the Use of Regional Models in a Storyline Framework for Understanding Climate Hazards

Physical storylines are a physically self-consistent unfolding of past events or of plausible future events and pathways (Shepherd et al. 2018).  They generally consist of both a recreation of a past event or period and an exploration of future analogue events that may arise under different future climate change scenarios. In short, storylines are a way to frame a problem in terms of 1) a geographic region, 2) an event, and 3) a set of process drivers for that event.  Extreme events and/or climate hazards, particularly those that have had a resounding effect on stakeholder and policymaker decisions, are natural candidates for examination using physical storylines.

We propose to leverage the storyline framework for understanding model performance and future projected changes across multiple extreme weather and climate events or periods of interest to our project stakeholders.

Eight different types of weather/climate extremes that took place over the contiguous U.S. (CONUS) will be examined.  The 2018 California wildfire season, atmospheric river events on the West Coast, the 2015 spring season of repeated mesoscale convective system (MCS) occurrence in the southern U.S. Plains that led to widespread flooding, Hurricane Irma, the 1996 rain-on-snow flooding event in the Susquehanna River basin, strong Northeast U.S. windstorms caused by both extratropical cyclones and derechos, and Northeast U.S. droughts.

These eight different physical storylines will be drawn on as test cases for assessing if regional models can reproduce these rare events at high to very high resolution in a manner that is consistent with observations, allow us to better understand the processes behind the events, and assess how these extreme events may look in the future. Two different methods for producing projections will be applied here, depending on the hazard in question.  A pseudo-global warming approach will be applied in most, but for some, e.g. the atmospheric rivers, future analogs will be identified via the mining of simulation ensembles.  This provides us with an opportunity to examine two different methods for generating event projections.

For this FPS, we will distill the information gained from the use of these storylines into actionable information for the international regional modeling community and potential interested stakeholders.


Contact person:
Melissa Bukovsky

Newly endorsed

John Cassano

Africa: Modelling the Southeast African regional Climate

Southeastern Africa is a region with a population of ~270 million people who are strongly affected by the local climate. Hence, it is important to get a better understanding of the regional climate, how it has changed in the past, and how it is likely to change in the future. An important question is whether and how the rainfall over southeastern Africa responds to anthropogenic forcings as well as natural climate variability. Dominant atmospheric phenomena in this region include the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ), the tropical monsoon and El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Furthermore, it is important to revise and update climate knowledge based on local climate scientists. There is already scientific literature on climate change studies for southern Africa, but work remains in evaluating the model projections and calibrating their output with in-situ observations. Southeastern Africa is experiencing a climate change where trends in mean precipitation may be due to changes in the occurrence of rainy days or rain intensity. It is important to understand the causes of these trends. Likewise, it is important to understand how the local temperature responds to changing large-scale conditions. Such questions can be explored through downscaling the southeast African regional climate from global climate models (GCMs) experiments in CORDEX – Africa. The research will involve analysis of local observations, reanalysis, historical and data from regional climate models (RCMs) and empirical-statistical downscaling (ESD) to study dependencies between large-scale conditions and local variability in the rain and temperature statistics. ESD and RCM simulations will be combined to provide reliable future projections, for instance, by using RCMs as pseudo-reality and the statistical models to emulate seasonally aggregated high-resolution RCM output for a large ensemble of multi-model ensembles (CMIP). Local observations will also be used in the model evaluation to assess the added value of regional downscaling for both ESD and RCMs. The proposed Flagship Pilot Study (FPS) is tailored to investigate the connections between changes and trends, and special attention will be on the rainy season(s) and its/their duration. Identified dependencies will be utilised for making reliable future projections (ESD). The proposed study will also enable an investigation into the importance of regional scale forcings (aerosols, land-use change, vegetation etc) for the southeast African region. The results will be presented as aggregated statistics for daily temperature and precipitation together with assessments of the models.


Contact persons:
Jonas Zucule
Bernardino Nhantumbo


Annual report for 2020


Shuyu Wang

Central Asia- East Asia: High resolution climate modelling with a focus on convection and associated precipitation over the Third Pole region

The Third Pole (TP) is the Tibetan Plateau and all the mountain ranges that surround it. It has the world’s largest store of ice and snow outside the Arctic and Antarctic regions. The TP plays a significant role in the global climate system and is highly sensitive to humaninduced climate change. More than 10 major rivers originate from the TP, and the dramatic changes in the cryosphere have a great impact on water cycle, ecosystem and society over the TP and the surrounding regions. Due to the complex topography and harsh environment, ground-based observations are scarce over the TP, making the study of regional climate and its impact on other systems such as water and ecosystem difficult. Horizontal resolution of prevailing global reanalysis datasets is generally coarser than 30 km, which is not sufficient to examine convection and other mesoscale systems over the TP. High-resolution regional downscaling is badly needed for understanding processes and improve projections. This project aims at enhancing our understanding of the regional characteristics of water cycle changes over the TP region with a special focus on the convection and precipitation. The spatial scale of annual precipitation is generally small. Convection system contributes significantly to the total precipitation over the TP, and is therefore a key to understand the water cycle of the region. Thus, we will investigate the impact of convection system on the water cycle, especially precipitation. The contribution of Mesoscale Convective Systems (MCSs) to the precipitation over the TP will be addressed by using the Rain Cell Tracking method. A multi-model and/or multischeme approach will be utilized to assess the ability of regional climate model (RCM) in simulating convective precipitation over the TP, with the aid of satellite observations and water isotope observations. The targeted resolution is 2-9 km with a focus on convectionpermitting simulations (2-4 km). The simulations from different models or model configurations will be intercompared. We will start with a test simulation of one year. When this is done successfully, we plan to run a subset of models/model setups for a multi-year period between 1979 and 2018. The exact number of years will depend on the evaluation of the one year test and the computing resources available. The outcomes of the project are expected to enhance our understanding of processes relevant for cloud and precipitation formation, convection, MCS, and local wind system. They should also be useful to future high resolution regional climate modeling and regional reanalysis over the TP. Other studies, such as the water cycle will also benefit from the results of this project. An international was established for this project, including experts in regional climate modeling, relevant observation, statistical analysis, water isotope modeling and observations, as well as regional cryosphere and climate studies. Most of the teams have been actively engaged in or are in leading positions for an international research program the Third Pole Environment (TPE) which calls for such an effort. This project has a great potential to be successful and useful to WCRP in general and CORDEX in particular.


Contact person:
Deliang Chen


Annual report for 2020


Grigory Nikulin

Africa: ELVIC – Climate Extremes in the Lake Victoria Basin

Extreme weather events, like heavy precipitation, heat waves, droughts and wind storms have a detrimental impact on East African societies. The Lake Victoria Basin (LVB) is especially vulnerable: It is estimated that each year 3,000-5,000 fishermen perish on the lake due to nightly storms (Red Cross,
2014). In addition, the LVB is a global hotspot of future population growth and urbanization. Urban dwellers in this region with low infrastructure are particularly vulnerable to climate extremes, such as urban flooding. As the frequency and intensity of climate extremes is projected to further increase substantially with climate change, so do the risks, with potentially major consequences for livelihoods of peoplein the LVB.

Future climate projections for the LVB are challenged by thecomplexity of the region. The mesoscale circulation induced by the lake and by the complex orography surrounding the basin, strongly modulate the climate change signal. Moreover, current state-of-the-art climate simulations over the region parameterise convection, while Convection Permitting Models (CPMs) have shown a strong added value in representing convection in other regions of the world. Altogether this urges for reducing model resolution to grid sizes of less than 5 km.

The computational cost of CPM integrations is currently so high that individual groups can only afford one realization of a possible future climate. Ensemble climate projections at the CPM scale are only possible in internationally coordinated programmes such as CORDEX. We therefore propose the CORDEX Flagship Pilot Study (FPS) “ELVIC – climate Extremes in the Lake VICtoria basin” with the overall objective to provide robust climate information on extremes to the impact
community. Thereby, ELVIC answers the following questions:

  • Are moist convective systems in Equatorial Africa better
    represented by CPMs compared to models that rely on a
    parametrization of convection?
  • How can we best combine information of CMIP and
    CORDEX-Africa with CPM (climate change) integrations?
  • How will extreme weather events evolve in the future in
    the LVB?
  • How can improved probabilistic information on convective
    extremes be used by the impact community?

An assessment of the capability of CPMs to represent extremes is only possible when sufficient observational data are available. With the recently endorsed Hydroclimate project for Lake Victoria (HyVic) and the UK-led project HyCRISTAL (Integrating Hydro-Climate Science into Policy Decisions for Climate-Resilient Infrastructure and Livelihoods in East Africa), observations are planned in the region. This, together with the emergence of a group of scientists planning or already
performing CPM integrations in the region makes ELVIC extremely timely. This FPS is an effort to coordinate activities between these groups.

With this FPS we want to improve climate change adaptation
strategies in the LVB by providing useful climate information


Contact person:
Nicole van Lipzig


ELVIC report 2020

Presentation from the ICRC-CORDEX2019

John Cassano

Africa: Coupled regional modelling of land-atmosphere-ocean interactions over western-southern Africa under climate change

The climate system of western-southern Africa is highly coupled and exhibits intricate interactions between the land, atmosphere and ocean. The dominating biome is the African savannahs, where complex tree-grass interactions are shaped by fire and land-use.

It has been postulated that under future climate change rising CO2 levels and increasing temperatures may favor trees over grasses in the savannah, leading to bush encroachment at the expense of biodiversity and grazing potential. However, given that that much of southern Africa is likely to become drier and significantly warmer under climate change (a conclusion of the Africa Chapter of AR5) it is plausible that mega-fire events may occur more frequently in savannahs, effectively favoring grasses over trees.

Complex dynamic vegetation models including realistic descriptions of savannah fire events, coupled to RCMs, are required to gain more insight into the future of the African savannahs under climate change. Fire in the savannahs, and the consequent release of biomass-burning aerosols into the atmosphere, are potentially important towards reducing uncertainties regarding one of the most intriguing open questions in climate science: climate sensitivity. The role of these aerosols on the stratocumulus (Sc) cloud deck over the Atlantic remains largely unexplored, but given that the southern African region is the largest source of biomass-burning aerosols in the world, it is a potentially important role.

Prognostic aerosols schemes in RCMs, combined with suitably sophisticated microphysical schemes will enable the study of both aerosol direct and indirect effects on the Sc cloud deck. Of particular interest is the role of climate change and land-use change on biomass-burning, with potential consequences for the Sc cloud deck and therefore climate sensitivity, through altered aerosol attributes and aerosol transport patterns.

Another fascinating aspect of the western-southern African climate system is the Benguela upwelling regime on the western coastal areas of South Africa and Namibia, and the related occurrence of Benguela-Niño events along the African west coast. Potential changes in this upwelling regime under climate change will be of crucial importance to ocean productivity and fisheries along these coastal areas.

Moreover, the rich biodiversity of the Namib desert depends largely on the inland penetration of fog as a source of water, and the formation of such fog events in turn depend on the location of upwelling patterns. High-resolution and coupled RCMs are needed to project the effects of regional climate change on the prevailing southeasterlies that blow along the west coast of southern Africa, and how such changes may impact on the formation of upwelling zones and fog. In fact, the more realistic simulation of African west-coast upwelling may be important towards reducing the significant biases most GCMs exhibit in simulating SSTs along the African west coast.

Similarly, the more realistic simulation of aerosol and Sc radiative effects may result in reducing this problem that has plagued GCMs in both AR4 and AR5. The above arguments build a convincing case to apply coupled RCMs to the western-southern African region, towards tackling a key open problem in climate science, reducing one of the most important biases common to current climate models, and to better anticipate and prepare for climate change impacts on this fascinating and complex coupled climate regime.


Contact person:
Francois Engelbrecht


Presentation from ICRC-CORDEX2019

Fredolin Tangang

South America: Extreme precipitation events in Southeastern South America: a proposal for a better understanding and modeling

Southeastern South America (SESA) is a highly populated region where socio-economic activities are mainly based on rainfed agriculture and cattle rising, for   both domestic consumption and exports. The hydroelectric power utilities are also very important as they supply energy to the region and rivers provide the water for consumption.

SESA has   been characterized by a remarkable increment in the frequency and intensity of heavy precipitation events, particularly during the late 20th century. The region is particularly vulnerable to extreme events due to adaptation measures have not been performed at the same rate as changes in these extreme   events. However, it is still a challenge to better identify the factors and mechanisms that determine the location, intensity and frequency of the precipitation extremes and their large hydrologic impacts.

The main objectives of the SESA-FPS are to study multi-scale processes and interactions (convection, local, regional and remote processes, including the   co-behaviour of processes) that result in these extreme precipitation events; and to develop actionable climate information from multiple sources (statistical and dynamical downscaling products) based on co-production with the impact and user community.

This initiative seeks to promote inter-institutional collaboration and further networking, integrating not only South American research communities but also   European communities, taking into account that, in the recent years, there have been little or scattered activities related with inter-institutional coordinated regional climate modeling.

Multi-scale aspects, processes and interactions that result in extreme precipitation events will be investigated using dynamical models (high resolution, convection permitting and coupled models) and statistical models. ESD and RCM products will be compared and validated exploring the added value of downscaling. This will allow for a strengthened cooperation between ESD and RCM communities to jointly tackle key issues of regional climate change research. The impact of   heavy precipitations on flooding and soil moisture conditions will be assessed using a water balance model, and hydrological models will be used to   simulate ground water and soil moisture to drive crop models. In this   context, an increased cooperation and integration of RCM, ESD and VIA communities is expected towards a distillation of actionable information from multiple sources of downscaled products.

Data from RELAMPAGO, CHUVA and SALLJEX field campaigns will be available to perform the proposed studies, providing highly temporal-spatial resolution data to   characterize the synoptic scale, mesoscale, and convective scale flows in the region. Observed long records from surface meteorological and hydrological stations from different local institutions and the CLARIS-LPB initiative as well as a net of meteorological stations which includes the measurement of soil moisture at different levels will be available for calibration and validation of models (ESD, RCM, impact models.


Europe+ Mediterranean: Convective phenomena at high resolution over Europe and the Mediterranean

Damaging weather events are often associated with extreme convective precipitation (Ducrocq et al. 2014). Convective cells occur due to rapidly ascending motions in areas of moisture convergence in regions of conditionally unstable atmospheric stratification. They can form anywhere in Europe and in Mediterranean areas, over homogeneous plains, or can develop from orographic barriers, land/sea or urban/rural contrasts. Convection induces a variety of potentially severe consequences such as heavy rainfall, flash floods, short-lived windstorms, hail and/or lightning.

Climate change potentially alters convection, making extreme precipitation more extreme, and also potentially modifying large-scale conditions (atmospheric circulation and stratification) making convection less or more favorable. This induces changes in return periods of precipitation extremes.

The study of convective precipitation events and their evolution under human-induced climate change is therefore of particular importance, and it is also timely:

  • Large field campaigns dedicated to the study of heavy precipitation events such as HyMeX (Ducrocq et al., 2014) and gridded high-resolution precipitation datasets (typically hourly, kilometer scale) , often merging station and radar data (Wüest et al. 2010, Delrieu et al. 2014) now provide a wealth of observations;
  • Computer capacity and model development now allow limited-area convection-permitting climate simulations at longer time-scales (Kendon et al., 2012, 2014; Ban et al., 2014, 2015, Leutwyler et al.,, enabeling a quantum jump in atmospheric climate modeling;
  • Homogeneous observation data sets collected over the years now unveil emerging trend signals in most extreme precipitations, particularly at sub-daily time scales (Westra et al., 2014) and in Mediterranean and Alpine mountain ranges (Vautard et al., 2015; Scherrer et al. 2016)
  • Several issues linked to detection, attribution, and downscaling of the very localized consequences of extreme convective events can now benefit from recent progress in advanced statistical methods combined with advances in dynamical modeling (Beaulant et al., 2011).

Convective extreme events are a priority under the WCRP Grand Challenge on climate extremes, because they carry both society-relevant and scientific challenges that can be tackled in the coming years. Further, “coordinated modeling programs are crucially needed to advance parameterizations of unresolved physics and to assess the full potential of CPMs” (Prein et al., 2015)

The proposal reflects a number of FPS criteria and aims to enlist research groups beyond the current CORDEX community. Present and future convective extremes and their processes will be investigated with models at convection-permitting resolutions over selected sub-regions of Europe and the Mediterranean. Advanced statistical techniques will also be employed in parallel to evaluate the performance of dynamical models and to, potentially, serve as emulators of convective extremes, as well as detect and attribute their changes. The added value of fine scale representation of convection will be rigorously evaluated with respect to both coarser resolution simulations up to GCM scales and VIA applications. The availability of observational datasets at very high resolutions in both space and time allows unprecedented evaluation opportunities. The FPS mobilizes the Euro- and Med-CORDEX communities and is also open to new partners who bring fresh perspectives and expertise to bear on issues surrounding convective phenomena.


Europe: Impact of land use changes on climate in Europe across spatial and temporal scales

We propose the Flagship Pilot Study “LUCAS” (Land Use & Climate Across Scales) for Europe, as a EURO-CORDEX & LUCID initiative supported by WCRP CORDEX and the GEWEX-GLASS international program. The spatial fragmentation of land use dynamics in Europe requires fine-scale modelling techniques, and their biophysical impacts on climate are often dominant on local to regional scales. Our overall objective is to identify robust biophysical impacts of land use changes (LUC) in Europe on climate across regional to local spatial scales and at various time scales from extreme events to multi-decadal:

  • Can local LUC attenuate negative impacts of climate change, e.g. extreme events in Europe?
  • What is the effect of spatial resolution on the magnitude and robustness of LUC-induced climate changes?
  • How large is the contribution of LUC to detected past and potential future climate trends in Europe?

In order to derive robust answers, we want to initiate a new era of coordinated regional climate model (RCM) ensemble LUC experiments on high spatial resolutions based on consistent land use dynamics for the past and the future. We include a new generation of RCMs, which couple regional atmosphere interactively with further components of the regional earth system, e.g. terrestrial biosphere and hydrosphere. The multi-model experiments shall be conducted over multiple gridded nests to refine the continental simulations down to resolutions below 5 km. Pilot regions are carefully chosen to a) evaluate the validity of coupled atmosphere-land simulations, b) better resolve the heterogeneity of land use changes in Europe and its local impacts on climate.

RCMs have been applied individually for investigating impacts of LUC on regional climate in different world regions (e.g. see reviews of Pielke et al. 2011, Mahmood et al. 2014). Most results are model specific and therefore do not allow one to derive robust conclusions and strategic directions. In this new initiative, for the first time an ensemble of RCMs will be used in coordinated experiments to inter-compare their sensitivities to LUC. Essential variables and fine-scale processes will be evaluated against multi-variable observations from flux towers, satellite sensors and new airborne and spaceborn radar techniques.

In our context, LUC refer to anthropogenic land cover changes as well as land management changes, as suggested by Luyssaert et al. (2014). The topic is of high societal relevance with respect to mitigation of global greenhouse gas emissions, e.g. through reforestation, and adaptation to local consequences of climate change, e.g. through irrigation of croplands. de Noblet-Ducoudré et al. (2012) demonstrated that regional impacts can be at least as important as greenhouse gas forcings, but biophysical feedbacks of land use changes on regional climate are still uncertain in magnitude and sign. There is an urgent need for robust information, which may help to prevent decisions on land management from unintended consequences.

We are prepared to build further collaborations with modelling activities over other CORDEX regions towards coordinated LUC experiments over multiple world regions.


Mediterranean: Role of the natural and anthropogenic aerosols in the Mediterranean region: past climate variability and future climate sensitivity

Aerosols strongly affect the Mediterranean basin located at the crossroads of air masses carrying both natural and anthropogenic particles making the basin an ideal    testbed for aerosol effects on climate. The aerosols have strong effects on the regional climate fluctuations from daily to multi-decadal scales due to    their direct, semi-direct and indirect effects on radiation, atmospheric circulation and cloud cover. Aerosols also represent one of the main sources of uncertainty in past    climate change attribution and future climate change projections at global and regional scales. Due to their relatively short life-time, aerosols    influencing the Mediterranean area are mostly produced in nearby regions and therefore they constitute a regional climate forcing of regional origin. In addition, the aerosols show a hig spatio-temporal variability and are influenced by numerous fine-scale processes. The use of high-resolution RCMs therefore fits well to address the four main scientific questions of the proposed FPS:

(1) Can we fully characterize the Mediterranean aerosol past variability and future evolution at climate scales ? in particular using RCMs.

(2) Can we understand the role of the Mediterranean aerosols on the past regional climate variability? including issues related to regional climate change    attribution and aerosols representation in climate models (GCM, RCM).

(3) Can we determine the role of regionally-born aerosols in the Mediterranean future climate sensitivity ? in particular using RCMs as complementary approach to GCMs.

(4) What is the aerosol role in shaping the Mediterranean extreme events ? (e.g. heat waves, heavy precipitation events)

The proposed FPS will be facilitated by recent observation efforts such as the ChArMEx programme, long-term multi-variable super-sites, availability of new    homogenized datasets for AOD and surface shortwave and longwave radiations from in-situ coordinated networks (AERONET, GEBA, BRSN) and climate-aware satellite initiatives (ESA-CCI).

The representation of aerosols and their effects in RCMs is still very crude and uncertain and a multi-model approach is therefore requested to bring robust answers to the scientific questions CORDEX then constitutes an adequate framework to propose scientifically-based and well-coordinated simulation protocols involving RCMs with various aerosol representations

The proposed FPS targets in particular a better understanding of solar radiation variability and future changes. This is required to anticipate potential energy    production or to understand the level of production of existing sites. The FPS may therefore leads to new and innovative climate services for energy producers over the Euro-Mediterranean area. Another outcomes of the FPS concerns the marine biogeochemistry of the oligotrophic Mediterranean Sea ecosystem as particles constitute one of the main sources of regional nutrients.

Besides, this FPS will contribute to several WCRP Grand Challenges, to the CORDEX Challenge about the coupled regional climate models and to the climate modelling activities of the Mediterranean regional programmes of Gewex (HyMeX) and CLIVAR (Med-CLIVAR).


Mediterranean: Role of the air-sea coupling and small scale ocean processess on regional climate

The mechanisms through which air-sea coupling can modify the regional climate will be investigated in this FPS, with special emphasis on the role of small    scale ocean processes and waves. This FPS is a natural continuation of the activities of MedCORDEX, HyMeX and MedCLIVAR. The selected region is the    area surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, which is often referred to as an ocean in miniature due to the variety of processes occurring therein. These include strong air-sea interactions, active mesoscale and submesoscale dynamics and a permanent thermohaline overturning circulation. Moreover, this area is one of the best observed regions in the world. Besides the dense observational network of meteorological stations over Europe, the Mediterranean Sea is regularly sampled by different monitoring programs (e.g HyMeX, the regional component of Gewex) providing observations of the ocean-atmosphere coupled system over the last decades (Jordà et al., 2016). The Mediterranean region is therefore a particularly suitable candidate for this FPS.

Ocean mesoscale in the Mediterranean Sea is characterized by a Rossby deformation radius of 5-10 km. In consequence, the SST often shows narrow and sharp fronts (e.g. in upwelling regions) as well as filaments with associated strong temperature gradients that can significantly modify the air-sea interaction (Chelton et al., 2004) and affect the climate evolution (Artale et al., 2009). Ocean mesoscale also plays a crucial role in the main mechanism of heat uptake by the ocean, namely dense water formation, which modelling requires both atmospheric (~25 km) and oceanic (~5-10 km) high spatial resolution that present GCMs are not able to achieve. Last, the Mediterranean wind-wave climate is characterized by high temporal and spatial variability due to the channeling of winds acting over the sea by the orography (Lionello et al. 2005). Wave effects on the turbulent heat fluxes are known to be important and the inclusion of this interaction in regional models is also expected to have a significant impact on long term simulations.

A detailed analysis of how air-sea coupling at high resolution can modify the regional climate, and consequently the global climate, is still missing in the literature. There are some indications that it can provide an added value to RCMs in both present climate (Artale et al 2009, Nabat et al., 2015) and future scenarios (Somot et al., 2008), but the mechanisms nderlying such impact are not completely understood. Global climate modelling should therefore benefit from this FPS as it will give clues for the future design of GCMs.

This FPS will moreover provide to the broad community focusing on the impacts of climate change on marine environments (e.g. marine ecosystems, fisheries and coastal infrastructures including harbour operations, ocean energy harvesting, tourism activities and beach management ) a database of regional ocean and atmosphere projections which    consistency will be insured by the common robust protocol used for the simulations. ). This FPS should therefore have a great potential in terms of funding opportunities while insuring an efficient transfer of knowledge, insofar as many of end-users are already familiar with climate information.