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How well do CMIP5 Earth System Models simulate present climate conditions? A performance comparison for selected CORDEX domains

This study tests the capability of seven Earth System Models (ESMs) from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 to reproduce present climate conditions in selected CORDEX regions, taking into account the requirements of both statistical and dynamical approaches. ECMWF’s ERA-Interim reanalysis is used as reference for a validation of circulation, temperature and humidity variables on daily timescale, which is based on distributional similarity scores. To additionally obtain an estimate of reanalysis uncertainty, ERA-Interim’s deviation from the Japanese Meteorological Agency JRA-25 reanalysis is calculated. Areas with considerable differences between both reanalyses do not allow for an objective assessment, since ESM performance is sensitive to reanalysis choice. For use in statistical downscaling studies, ESM performance is computed on the grid-box scale and mapped over a large spatial domain covering various CORDEX domains, additionally highlighting those regions where significant distributional differences remain even for the centered/zero-mean time series. For use in dynamical downscaling studies, performance is specifically assessed along the lateral boundaries of the selected CORDEX domains.