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Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 14, issue 8 | Copyright
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 14, 2009-2025, 2014
© Author(s) 2014. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 06 Aug 2014

Research article | 06 Aug 2014

Sensitivity of the WRF model to the lower boundary in an extreme precipitation event – Madeira island case study

J. C. Teixeira1, A. C. Carvalho2, M. J. Carvalho1, T. Luna3, and A. Rocha1 J. C. Teixeira et al.
  • 1Department of Physics, CESAM, University of Aveiro, Campus Universitario de Santiago 3810-193 Aveiro, Portugal
  • 2CENSE, Departament of Science Environmental Engineering, Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, 2829-516 Caparica, Portugal
  • 3IDAD The Institute for Environment and Development, Campus Universitario de Santiago 3810-193 Aveiro, Portugal

Abstract. The advances in satellite technology in recent years have made feasible the acquisition of high-resolution information on the Earth's surface. Examples of such information include elevation and land use, which have become more detailed. Including this information in numerical atmospheric models can improve their results in simulating lower boundary forced events, by providing detailed information on their characteristics. Consequently, this work aims to study the sensitivity of the weather research and forecast (WRF) model to different topography as well as land-use simulations in an extreme precipitation event. The test case focused on a topographically driven precipitation event over the island of Madeira, which triggered flash floods and mudslides in the southern parts of the island. Difference fields between simulations were computed, showing that the change in the data sets produced statistically significant changes to the flow, the planetary boundary layer structure and precipitation patterns. Moreover, model results show an improvement in model skill in the windward region for precipitation and in the leeward region for wind, in spite of the non-significant enhancement in the overall results with higher-resolution data sets of topography and land use.

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