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Environmental Modelling & Software 23 (2008) 813e834


www.elsevier.com/locate/envsoft

Automated regression-based statistical downscaling tool


Masoud Hessami a,*, Philippe Gachon b,c, Taha B.M.J. Ouarda d, André St-Hilaire d
a
Department of Civil Engineering, Shahid Bahonar University of Kerman, Kerman 76169-133, Iran
b
Adaptation and Impacts Research Division, Science and Technology Branch, Environment Canada, Montréal, Québec, Canada
c
McGill University, Department of Civil Engineering and Applied Mechanics, 817 Sherbrooke Street West, Montréal, Québec H3A 2K6, Canada
d
INRS-ETE, Chair in Statistical Hydrology, University of Québec, 490 de la Couronne, Québec G1K 9A9, Canada
Received 27 August 2005; received in revised form 3 October 2007; accepted 4 October 2007

Abstract

Many impact studies require climate change information at a finer resolution than that provided by Global Climate Models (GCMs). In the
last 10 years, downscaling techniques, both dynamical (i.e. Regional Climate Model) and statistical methods, have been developed to obtain fine
resolution climate change scenarios. In this study, an automated statistical downscaling (ASD) regression-based approach inspired by the SDSM
method (statistical downscaling model) developed by Wilby, R.L., Dawson, C.W., Barrow, E.M. [2002. SDSM e a decision support tool for the
assessment of regional climate change impacts, Environmental Modelling and Software 17, 147e159] is presented and assessed to reconstruct
the observed climate in eastern Canada based extremes as well as mean state. In the ASD model, automatic predictor selection methods are
based on backward stepwise regression and partial correlation coefficients. The ASD model also gives the possibility to use ridge regression
to alleviate the effect of the non-orthogonality of predictor vectors. Outputs from the first generation Canadian Coupled Global Climate Model
(CGCM1) and the third version of the coupled global Hadley Centre Climate Model (HadCM3) are used to test this approach over the current
period (i.e. 1961e1990), and compare results with observed temperature and precipitation from 10 meteorological stations of Environment Can-
ada located in eastern Canada. All ASD and SDSM models, as these two models are evaluated and inter-compared, are calibrated using NCEP
(National Center for Environmental Prediction) reanalysis data before the use of GCMs atmospheric fields as input variables.
The results underline certain limitations to downscale the precipitation regime and its strength to downscale the temperature regime. When
modeling precipitation, the most commonly combination of predictor variables were relative and specific humidity at 500 hPa, surface airflow
strength, 850 hPa zonal velocity and 500 hPa geopotential height. For modeling temperature, mean sea level pressure, surface vorticity and
850 hPa geopotential height were the most dominant variables. To evaluate the performance of the statistical downscaling approach, several
climatic and statistical indices were developed. Results indicate that the agreement of simulations with observations depends on the GCMs at-
mospheric variables used as ‘‘predictors’’ in the regression-based approach, and the performance of the statistical downscaling model varies for
different stations and seasons. The comparison of SDSM and ASD models indicated that neither could perform well for all seasons and months.
However, using different statistical downscaling models and multi-sources GCMs data can provide a better range of uncertainty for climatic and
statistical indices.
Ó 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Climate change; Statistical downscaling; GCM; Multiple regression; Eastern Canada

1. Introduction estimating plausible future climate. However, the spatial reso-


lution of GCMs is too coarse to resolve regional scale effect
Climate change scenarios developed from Global Climate and to be used directly in local impact studies. Downscaling
Models (GCMs) are the initial source of information for techniques offer an alternative to improve regional or local es-
timates of variables from GCM outputs.
Downscaling methods, as reviewed in Wilby and Wigley
* Corresponding author. Tel./fax: þ11 98 341 322 0054. (1997) and more recently in Wilby et al. (2004) and Mearns
E-mail address: masoud.hessami@gmail.com (M. Hessami). et al. (2003), were divided into four general categories: regression

1364-8152/$ - see front matter Ó 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.envsoft.2007.10.004
814 M. Hessami et al. / Environmental Modelling & Software 23 (2008) 813e834

methods (Hewitson and Crane, 1996; Wilby et al., 1999), weather the following two steps: precipitation occurrence and precipita-
pattern approaches (Yarnal et al., 2001), stochastic weather gen- tion amounts, as described in Wilby et al. (1999):
erators (Richardson, 1981; Racsko et al., 1991; Semenov and Bar-
X
n X
n
row, 1997; Bates et al., 1998) and limited-area Regional Climate Oi ¼ a0 þ aj pij ; R0:25 ¼ b0 þ bj pij þ ei ð1Þ
i
Models (RCMs, Mearns et al., 1995). Among these approaches, j¼1 j¼1
regression methods are regularly used because of their ease of im-
plementation and their low computation requirements. Statistical where Oi is the daily precipitation occurrence, Ri are daily pre-
downscaling is based on the fundamental assumption that re- cipitation amounts, pij are predictors, n is number of predic-
gional climate is conditioned by the local physiographic charac- tors, a and b are model parameters and ei is modeling error.
teristics as well as the large scale atmospheric state. Based on this The modeling of daily temperature is performed in one step:
assumption, large scale climate fields are related to local variables
X
n
through a statistical model in which GCM simulations are used as Ti ¼ g0 þ gj pij þ ei ð2Þ
input for the large scale atmospheric variables (or ‘‘predictors’’) j¼1
to downscale the local climate variables (or ‘‘predictands’’) with
the use of observed meteorological data. The major weaknesses of where Ti is the daily temperature (maximum, minimum or
statistical downscaling methods are that the fundamental assump- mean) and g is the model parameter. Once the deterministic
tion on which they are based is not verifiable, i.e. the statistical re- component is obtained, the residual term ei is modeled under
lationships developed for the present day climate also hold under the assumption that it follows a Gaussian distribution:
different forcing conditions of plausible future climate (Wilby rffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffi
et al., 2004), and they cannot explicitly describe the physical pro- VIF
ei ¼ z i Se þ b ð3Þ
cesses that affect climate. In spite of these limitations, these 12
methods may be helpful for impact studies in heterogeneous envi-
where zi is a normally distributed random number, Se is the
ronments (see for example the recent study of Dibike et al., 2007
standard error of estimate, b is the model bias and VIF is
and Gachon and Dibike, 2007, in coastline areas of northern Can-
the variance inflation factor. For calibrating the model,
ada), and/or for generating large ensembles or transient scenarios.
NCEP (National Center for Environmental Prediction, e.g.
In our study, the statistical downscaling regression-based
Kalnay et al., 1996) reanalysis data must be used. When using
methods, namely the SDSM model developed by Wilby et al.
NCEP data for scenario generation, VIF and b are, respec-
(2002) and a new tool mainly developed to improve the proce-
tively, set to the 12 and 0. When using GCM data for scenario
dure in the selection of predictors, are assessed to reconstruct
generation, the VIF and the bias can be set automatically using
the observed climate based extremes (from temperature and pre-
the following equations:
cipitation variables only, over the 1961e1990 period), in eastern
Canada. The main purpose of this study is to develop and to test b ¼ Mobs  Md ð4Þ
a tool capable of performing statistical downscaling automati-
cally from predictor selection to model calibration, scenario 12ðVobs  Vd Þ
generation and statistical analysis of scenarios. VIF ¼ ð5Þ
S2e
In Section 2, the mathematical formulation of an automated
statistical downscaling (ASD) model is presented, followed by where Vobs is the variance of observation during calibration pe-
Section 3 showing the methodology focussed on model evalu- riod, Vd is the variance of deterministic part of model output
ation criteria, the study area, data and predictors selection. The during calibration period, Se is the standard error, Mobs and
results are then presented in Section 4 in using both the NCEP Md are the mean of observation and the mean of deterministic
(National Centre for Environmental Prediction) and two series part of model output during calibration period, respectively.
of GCMs daily predictors. Section 6 presents the main conclu-
sions and recommendations concerning the assessment of the 2.1. Regression methods
two statistical downscaling methods (i.e. namely the formal
ASD and the original regression method SDSM) studied here. Regression-based downscaling methods often use multiple
linear regressions, however, the non-orthogonality of the pre-
2. Automated statistical downscaling dictor vectors can make the least squares estimates of the re-
gression coefficients unstable. In addition to multiple linear
An automated regression-based statistical downscaling regressions, the present model gives the possibility to use
(ASD) model, inspired by the existing statistical downscaling the ridge regression (Hoerl and Kennard, 1970) to alleviate
model (SDSM developed by Wilby et al., 2002), was developed the effect of the non-orthogonality of the predictor vectors.
under the Matlab environment (The Mathworks, 2002). Figs. 1 In this approach, a small bias is introduced to provide more
and 2 show the main menu and the general scheme of the ASD stable estimators (Hoerl and Kennard, 1970). When collinear-
framework to generate climate scenario information, respec- ity exists, for small perturbations in data, the estimates pro-
tively. The model process can be conditional on the occurrence vided by ridge regression are more robust than ordinary least
of an event (i.e. for precipitation) or unconditional (i.e. for tem- squares (OLS) estimates. The predictor variables should be
perature). Hence, the modeling of daily precipitation involves first standardized to have zero mean and unit variance (the
M. Hessami et al. / Environmental Modelling & Software 23 (2008) 813e834 815

Fig. 1. Main menu of ASD (automated statistical downscaling) tool.

future climate predictors are standardized using the mean and of the ridge parameter is often done by iteration and can be
variance of the current climate predictors). somewhat subjective. Hoerl and Kennard (1970) suggest the
The ridge regression coefficients a for the linear model following guidelines:
y ¼ Xa þ e can be calculated from:
- Plot values of k as a function of a (the so-called ridge
1
a ¼ ðXt X þ kIÞ X t y ð6Þ trace). Identify the k value for which the system stabilizes.
The associated a values provide the general character of an
where I is an identity matrix and k is the ridge parameter. orthogonal system.
When k ¼ 0, a is the least squares estimator. The selection

Set NCEP
Predictand
model configuration predictors

Select best predictors using


stepwise regression / partial correlation

Calibrate model

Generate simulations Set GCM


using NCEP data VIF and bias predictors

Generate scenarios
using GCM data

Results evaluation

Fig. 2. ASD architecture.


816 M. Hessami et al. / Environmental Modelling & Software 23 (2008) 813e834

- Coefficients should have reasonable absolute values. The probability of the t-statistic indicates whether the observed
- Coefficients with improper signs at k ¼ 0 will have correlation occurred by chance if the true correlation is zero.
changed to have proper signs (e.g. positive for positive cor- In the SDSM model, a recursive algorithm is implemented
relation between predictor and predictand). to compute partial correlation using Eq. (9). This recursive al-
- The residual sum of squares will not have been inflated to gorithm has a limitation, i.e. when the partial correlation be-
an unreasonable value. tween two variables is computed, the maximum number of
controlling variables is 12. However, the number of NCEP pre-
2.2. Predictor selection methods dictors used for partial correlation analysis is usually more
than 20 (as suggested in Tables 1 and 2 for NCEP predictors
In SDSM (Wilby et al., 2002), selection of predictors is an interpolated on the two grids of GCMs, which are used in
iterative process, partly based on the user’s subjective judg- the following for GCMs based evaluation predictors). In
ment. In the present model, we have implemented two ASD, to control this limitation and fast computation, the fol-
methods based on backward stepwise regression (McCuen, lowing algorithm is used for partial correlation analysis. We
2003) and partial correlation coefficients to select the predic- compute first the residuals of regressing the response variable
tors. Backward stepwise regression starts with all the terms y against the independent variables x2, x3, ., xm:
in the model and removes the least significant terms until all
the remaining terms are statistically significant. The partial y ¼ f1 ðx2 ; x3 ; .; xm Þ ð11Þ
F-test which can be used for either adding a predictor to the
equation containing q  1 variables or removing a predictor and then we compute the residuals from regressing x1 against
from the equation containing q variables is: the independent variables x2, x3, ., xm:
  x1 ¼ f2 ðx2 ; x3 ; .; xm Þ ð12Þ
R2q  R2q1 ðn  q  1Þ
F¼   ð7Þ The correlation between y and x1 controlling x2, x3, ., xm is
1  R2q obtained by computing the correlation between the residuals
of the two linear models f1 and f2.
where n is the number of observations, Rq and Rq  1 are cor-
relation coefficients between the criterion variable and a pre- 3. Methodology
diction equation having q and q  1 variables, respectively.
3.1. Model evaluation diagnostic criteria
If F is greater than the critical F value, the predictor should
be included in the equation. The critical F value is defined A core of 11 extremes and climate variability indices has been developed
for a given level of significance and degrees of freedom 1 for Québec regions in considering their usefulness in the context of Nordic cli-
and n  q  1. A Bonferroni correction (Bonferroni, 1936) is mate (e.g. Gachon et al., 2005), and to analyze frequency, intensity and dura-
used for the level of significance using the following formula: tion related to extremes of precipitation and temperature. These indices have
been used to document the recent observed climate variability related to the
 a1q precipitation and the temperature regime evolution (i.e. over the 1941e2000
a¼1 1 ð8Þ period), and to assess the performance of the statistical downscaling results
2 to reconstruct the current observed period 1961e1990. These provide informa-
tion on mean and extreme climate for the meteorological stations used in this
where a is the level of significance and q is the number of pre-
dictor in the equation. The partial F-test must be computed for
every predictor at each step of stepwise regression. Table 1
NCEP predictor variables on CGCM1 grid
Partial correlation is the correlation between two variables
after removing the linear effect of the third or more other vari- No. Predictors No. Predictors
ables. The partial correlation between variable i and j while 1 Mean sea level pressure 14 500 hPa divergence
controlling for third variable k is (e.g. Afifi and Clark, 1996): 2 Surface airflow strength 15 850 hPa airflow strength
3 Surface zonal velocity 16 850 hPa zonal velocity
Rij  Rik Rjk 4 Surface meridional velocity 17 850 hPa meridional velocity
Rij;k ¼ qffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffi
  ffi ð9Þ 5 Surface vorticity 18 850 hPa vorticity
1  R2ik 1  R2jk 6 Surface wind direction 19 850 hPa geopotential height
7 Surface divergence 20 850 hPa wind direction
8 500 hPa airflow strength 21 850 hPa divergence
where Rij is the correlation coefficient between variables i and j. 9 500 hPa zonal velocity 22 Near surface
For partial correlation method, the p-value is used for eliminat- relative humidity
ing any one of the predictors. The p-value is computed by trans- 10 500 hPa meridional velocity 23 Specific humidity
forming the correlation R to create a t-statistic having n  2 at 500 hPa
degrees of freedom, where n is the number of observations: 11 500 hPa vorticity 24 Specific humidity
at 850 hPa
12 500 hPa geopotential height 25 Near surface
R specific humidity
t ¼ qffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffi ð10Þ 13 500 hPa wind direction 26 Mean temperature
1R2
n2 at 2 m
M. Hessami et al. / Environmental Modelling & Software 23 (2008) 813e834 817

Table 2 In addition to these indices, we have computed the mean and the standard
NCEP predictor variables on HadCM3 grid deviation of observed and simulated monthly values during calibration (1961e
No. Predictors No. Predictors 1975) and validation (1976e1990) periods, for total precipitation, maximum,
minimum and mean temperature.
1 Mean sea level pressure 14 500 hPa divergence
2 Surface airflow strength 15 850 hPa airflow strength
3 Surface zonal velocity 16 850 hPa zonal velocity 3.2. Study area, data and predictors selection
4 Surface meridional velocity 17 850 hPa meridional velocity
5 Surface vorticity 18 850 hPa vorticity Fig. 3 shows the area over eastern Canada where the studied stations are
6 Surface wind direction 19 850 hPa geopotential height located. We have focused on the following stations located around the Labra-
7 Surface divergence 20 850 hPa wind direction dor Sea and the Gulf of St. Lawrence: Cartwright, Goose bay, Kuujjuaq,
8 500 hPa airflow strength 21 850 hPa divergence Schefferville, Causapscal, Daniel Harbour, Gaspé, Mont-Joli, Natashquan
9 500 hPa zonal velocity 22 Relative humidity and Sept-Îles. For statistical downscaling, we have used the following data:
at 500 hPa the daily meteorological data from Environment Canada stations, i.e. maxi-
10 500 hPa meridional velocity 23 Relative humidity mum, minimum and mean temperature, and precipitation, corresponding to
at 850 hPa homogenized and rehabilitated values developed by Vincent and Mekiz (e.g.
11 500 hPa vorticity 24 Near surface Vincent et al., 2002; Vincent and Mékis, 2004) as predictands and three series
relative humidity of daily normalized predictors, from NCEP reanalysis and from two GCMs in-
12 500 hPa geopotential height 25 Surface specific humidity dependent outputs (i.e. CGCM1 and HadCM3), for the period of 1961e1990.
13 500 hPa wind direction 26 Mean temperature The availability of two series of GCM predictors constitutes an opportunity to
at 2 m test the two statistical models in using two independent data, and to evaluate
the uncertainties of the results associated with two GCM structures and
paper (see their location over eastern Canada in Fig. 3), as well as help to eval- parameterizations.
uate the capacity of the statistical models to downscale both the intensity (re- CGCM1 is the first Generation of the coupled Canadian Global Climate
lated to absolute or relative thresholds), duration and frequency in the Model (e.g. Flato et al., 2000). The atmospheric component of CGCM1 has
precipitation and temperature series rather than monthly totals or mean values. 10 vertical levels and a horizontal resolution of approximately 3.7 of latitude
Tables 3 and 4 show the climatic indices for precipitation and temperature and longitude (about 400 km). HadCM3 is a coupled atmosphereeocean gen-
variables, respectively, which are used as diagnostic criteria to evaluate the eral circulation model developed at the Hadley Centre and described by
performance of statistical downscaling models. Based on daily total precipi- Gordon et al. (2000) and Pope et al. (2000). The atmospheric component of
tation, we use five precipitation indices including percentage of wet days HadCM3 has 19 levels with a horizontal resolution of 2.5 of latitude by
(PRCP1, in that case occurrence was limited to events with amount greater 3.75 of longitude, which is equivalent to a horizontal resolution of about
than or equal to 1 mm to avoid the problem in trace measurement and low 417  278 km at the Equator, reducing to 295  278 km at 45 of latitude.
daily values), mean precipitation amount per wet days (SDII), maximum num- The two GCMs have participated in the CMIP1 (Coupled Model Intercompar-
ber of consecutive dry days (CDD), maximum 3-days precipitation total ison Project, Phase 1) with climate simulations beginning around 1860 or 1900
(R3days) and the 90th percentile of rain day amount (PREC90). Based on (for HadCM3 and CGCM1, respectively) in using historical estimates of
daily minimum and maximum temperature, we use six temperature indices in- greenhouse gases and sulphate aerosols concentration (see Table 8.1 in Chap-
cluding the mean of diurnal temperature range (DTR), the frost season length ter 8 and Table 9.1 in Chapter 9, IPCC, 2001). The two runs from CGCM1 and
(FSL), the growing season length (GSL), the percentage of days with freeze HadCM3 come from the first member of the ensemble runs (i.e. 3/1 mem-
and thaw cycle (Fr/Th), the 90th percentile of daily maximum temperature ber(s), for CGCM1/HadCM3).
(Tmax90) and the 10th percentile of daily minimum temperature (Tmin10). The ASD and SDSM models for each station, month and season were run
These indices are presented in more details in Gachon et al. (2005). They using NCEP predictors to calibrate the models before using the two corre-
are modified to correspond to the characteristics of the Québec climate from sponding CGCM1 and HadCM3 predictors properly, over the 1961e1990
the STARDEX (Statistical and Regional dynamical Downscaling of Extremes time-window. Hence, the NCEP series of predictors have been re-gridded,
for European regions) SDEIS climate indices software (Haylock, 2004). i.e. interpolated on the two GCMs grids because the grid-spacing and/or

Fig. 3. Meteorological stations located around the Labrador Sea and the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
818 M. Hessami et al. / Environmental Modelling & Software 23 (2008) 813e834

Table 3 been found in general. In other words, the interpolation procedure from the
Precipitation indices used to evaluate the performance of statistical downscal- NCEP grid to the GCM grids is more accurate and more physically based,
ing models in spite of the fact that direct intercomparison is not fully viable. However,
Indices Definition Unit Time Scale in general, we use most of the time the same predictors and when the predic-
tors are different they are strongly correlated (see Tables 5e8), i.e. are issued
PRCP1 Percentage of wet days % Season
from the same physical processes, and this does not constitute a major concep-
(threshold  1 mm)
tual problem for the intercomparison of all downscaling results. As shown in
SDII Mean precipitation mm/day Season
the following, the interpolation procedure has weak influence on the predictor
amount at wet days
values and on the downscaling results, with respect to the relevance and the
CDD Maximum number Days Season
reliability of the raw GCM predictors, which plays the key role in the accuracy
of consecutive dry days
of the downscaled variables (see for example, the recent results of Dibike
R3days Maximum 3-days precipitation total mm Season
et al., 2007, using two independent GCMs predictor series).
PREC90 90th percentile mm Season
For each station, five predictor variables were selected using a stepwise re-
of rain day amount
gression. Prior to the stepwise regression, the predictor variables 22 (near sur-
face relative humidity, see Table 1), 25 (near surface specific humidity) and 26
(mean temperature at 2 m) have been removed from NCEP data interpolated
coordinate systems of reanalysis data sets do not correspond to those of the on CGCM1 grid (in order to avoid the problem in using the equivalent predic-
two GCM outputs (for example the NCEP/NCAR reanalysis has a grid-spacing tor variables from CGCM1 output in which strong biases have been docu-
of 2.5 latitude by 2.5 longitude instead of the grid-spacing of CGCM1 and mented in early and end of the winter, due to the simplistic bucket model in
HadCM3 as previously mentioned). It is a reason why two series of statistical this version of the Canadian Model; e.g. IPCC, Chapter 8, 2001). To make
downscaling simulations incorporate the NCEP predictors interpolated on the comparison more consistent, the variables 24 (near surface relative humidity,
two different grids, as suggested in Tables 1 and 2. Re-gridding and verifica- see Table 2), 25 (surface specific humidity) and 26 (mean temperature at
tion of GCM predictors are a necessary part of all statistical downscaling de- 2 m) have been also removed from NCEP data interpolated on HadCM3
velopment (and time-consuming). The interpolation procedure to the GCM grid. Also, we have had access to the specific humidity for the CGCM1 output
grids rather than the NCEP/NCAR reanalysis grid is mainly motivated as rather than the relative humidity for the HadCM3 output.
we use the GCM predictors for the climate change simulations (i.e. the Specific and relative humidity are not interchangeable, but they are
main issues for downscaling methods used to developed high resolution cli- strongly correlated. As the two are highly correlated to the occurrence of pre-
mate scenarios), and raw GCM information must be preserved for the down- cipitation, as their synchronous variation is dependent to the saturated phase of
scaling process. As regularly used in SDSM, the interpolation has been carried water vapour in the air, the use of relative or specific humidity gives the same
out in this manner since we have more confidence in finer resolution data in- results for the downscaling of precipitation. Hence, no differences are found
terpolated to a coarser resolution than we do in interpolating coarse-resolution depending on which is chosen (this may not be the case for future climate pro-
(i.e. GCM) data to a finer resolution. In doing the reverse interpolation, i.e. jection). In fact, the combination of humidity variables at different levels is
from the coarser GCM grid to the finer NCEP/NCAR grid, an ‘‘artificial’’ more often important for the precipitation process (occurrence and intensity)
higher resolution set of predictor variables is generated with high risk to create than the single value of humidity taken individually at only one level.
an unreliable physical information especially over high gradient in atmo- The downscaling model parameters were obtained by multiple linear re-
spheric values (i.e. part issued from the interpolation process). Also, this inter- gressions with separate regressions for each month using daily observed and
polation procedure must be realized both for the current and for the future predictors data. Table 5 shows that the most commonly used predictor vari-
periods. Hence, this process modifies the original GCM predictor without ables for precipitation modeling are specific/relative humidity at 500 hPa, sur-
any potential added values and/or physical changes, i.e. not fully representa- face airflow strength, 500 hPa geopotential height and 850 hPa zonal velocity.
tive of the atmospheric circulation changes simulated by the GCM at its orig- For modeling temperature, mean sea level pressure, surface vorticity and
inal resolution. 850 hPa geopotential height seem to be the most important predictor variables,
Gachon et al. (2005) have analyzed in detail the results from the NCEP which are physically plausible because those are strongly associated to strong
driven statistical downscaling models with the two series of predictors interpo- modification of temperature characteristics in the boundary layer (see Tables
lated on the HadCM3 and CGCM1 grids, and no significant differences have 6e8), through the thermal advection term.
For stability and robustness of the downscaling results (see Gachon et al.,
2005), for each application of ASD and SDSM models, 100 simulations were
Table 4 performed to produce 100 synthetic series of daily precipitation and mean,
Temperature indices used to evaluate the performance of statistical downscal- minimum and maximum temperature. Differences between these 100 realiza-
ing models tions do not reflect the full range of internal variability because only the sto-
Indices Definition Unit Time Scale chastic component differs between each run. The deterministic component (i.e.
controlled by the atmospheric variables) follows the same evolution in each

DTR Mean of diurnal C Season run because only one realization of the predictor variables at daily scale exists
temperature range in each case (either the NCEP or GCMs data).
FSL Frost season Days Year Each downscaled series is accumulated into monthly totals and averaged
length: Tmin < 0  C more over the 100 realizations, and then compared in the following with the ob-
than 5 days served series for climate mean and standard deviation variables. For climate
and Tmin > 0  C more indices evaluation, each series is accumulated into monthly, seasonal or yearly
than 5 days totals (according to the considered time scale of each indices, see Tables 3 and 4).
GSL Growing season Days Year All the 100 realizations are then compared with the observed series to evaluate
length: Tmean > 5  C more the range of the stochastic component (i.e. to analyze the spreading and out-
than 5 days liers in the results with the aid of box plot graphs). The comparison is per-
and Tmean < 5  C more formed over the period of ASD and SDSM calibration (1961e1975) and
than 5 days over an independent verification/validation period (1976e1990), using two se-
FreTh Days with Days Month ries of NCEP predictors (i.e. same atmospheric fields but interpolated on the
freeze and thaw two GCMs grids as mentioned previously). For the downscaling values using
cycle (Tmax > 0  C, Tmin < 0  C) GCMs predictors, the complete period 1961e1990 is used to compare all re-

Tmax90 90th percentile of daily Tmax C Season sults. The criteria for results comparison are computing the amount of model

Tmin10 10th percentile of daily Tmin C Season explained variance (R2) and Root Mean Squared Error (RMSE) for the
M. Hessami et al. / Environmental Modelling & Software 23 (2008) 813e834 819

Table 5
Results of ASD model calibration (1961e1975) for precipitation using NCEP predictors interpolated on the CGCM1 and on the HadCM3 grids
Station CGCM1 grid HadCM3 grid
2 2
Predictors R R (ridge) Predictors R2 R2 (ridge)
Cartwright 3 5 9 11 23 0.24 0.32 3 5 12 19 22 0.27 0.33
Goose bay 3 9 10 15 23 0.24 0.31 3 12 15 17 22 0.23 0.33
Kuujjuaq 2 8 15 16 23 0.22 0.33 2 12 16 19 22 0.22 0.33
Schefferville 2 16 17 18 23 0.32 0.37 2 9 12 16 19 0.25 0.34
Causapascal 7 9 16 21 23 0.13 0.20 9 12 16 17 22 0.15 0.21
Daniel Harbour 2 11 12 18 23 0.20 0.27 2 11 15 18 22 0.20 0.27
Gaspé 3 9 10 14 17 0.17 0.27 12 17 19 22 23 0.18 0.30
Mont-Joli 2 9 16 17 23 0.21 0.27 2 9 12 16 22 0.17 0.31
Natashquan 2 12 16 17 23 0.26 0.35 10 12 16 17 22 0.31 0.36
Sept-Îles 5 9 12 16 23 0.24 0.38 2 5 9 16 22 0.22 0.40
For each predictor, the number refers to the atmospheric variables defined in Tables 1 and 2 (for each respective GCM grid).

estimated statistics and climatic indices. ASD takes the output of each monthly 0.31 (Natashquan) for NCEP data on HadCM3 grid (Table 5).
simulation and corresponding monthly observation, and then computes the These relatively low explained variances underline the diffi-
mean amount of explained variance. For computing RMSE, the observed
and estimated indices are averaged at the respective time scale over the 100
culty to downscale the precipitation regime compared to the
simulations. temperature. However, in the case of daily rainfall, any posi-
tive explained variance is valuable, as this corresponds to a cor-
relation between 0.36 and 0.56, which for daily climatic time
4. Results series is quite respectable, in particular considering the stochas-
tic character of daily rainfall. In the case of temperature, the
Before analyzing the results with GCMs predictors, the se- high values of explained variance (>89%; see Tables 6e8) in-
ries downscaled from the NCEP predictors are needed to eval- dicate the greater skill to downscale the temperature regime
uate the performance of the ASD and the SDSM models in than for precipitation.
comparison with the observed precipitation and temperature Using the same set of five predictors selected by the ASD
series, for both the calibration and the validation periods model illustrated in Tables 5e8, an example of the results of
(i.e. cross-validation procedure), as shown in Section 4.1. model calibration with SDSM is given for Schefferville station
(not shown in a table). For this station, when using NCEP data
4.1. Calibration (1961e1975) and validation (1976e on CGCM1 grid, the amounts of explained variance (R2) are
1990) using NCEP predictors 0.18, 0.77, 0.82 and 0.65 for precipitation, maximum temper-
ature, mean temperature and minimum temperature, respec-
Over all stations, Tables 5e8 summarize the results of tively. These values are slightly different when using NCEP
model calibration with the ASD model (over the period data on HadCM3 grid (0.12, 0.76, 0.76 and 0.64). Hence, as
1961e1975) for precipitation, maximum, minimum and suggested in Tables 5e8, ASD provides higher values for
mean temperature using NCEP predictors interpolated on the the amounts of explained variance than SDSM. The difference
CGCM1 and on the HadCM3 grids. For the downscaling of between the amounts of explained variance is that SDSM com-
precipitation, the amount of explained variance (R2) varies putes a mean value of the amounts of explained variance over
from 0.13 (Causapscal) to 0.32 (Schefferville) for NCEP 12 months, but ASD takes the output of 12 monthly models
data on CGCM1 grid and it varies from 0.15 (Causapscal) to and corresponding observations, and then computes the

Table 6
Results of ASD model calibration (1961e1975) for maximum temperature using NCEP predictors interpolated on the CGCM1 and on the HadCM3 grids
Station CGCM1 grid HadCM3 grid
2 2
Predictors R R (ridge) Predictors R2 R2 (ridge)
Cartwright 1 4 5 17 19 0.91 0.94 1 5 17 18 19 0.89 0.93
Goose bay 1 5 6 15 19 0.95 0.96 1 5 17 18 19 0.93 0.96
Kuujjuaq 1 4 5 19 24 0.95 0.96 1 5 11 18 19 0.94 0.96
Schefferville 1 5 7 18 19 0.96 0.97 1 3 5 16 19 0.95 0.97
Causapascal 1 5 16 18 19 0.95 0.96 1 3 5 16 19 0.95 0.96
Daniel Harbour 1 4 5 15 19 0.94 0.94 1 4 5 15 19 0.94 0.94
Gaspé 1 5 15 18 19 0.93 0.95 1 3 5 16 19 0.94 0.95
Mont-Joli 1 5 10 18 19 0.94 0.96 1 3 5 12 19 0.95 0.96
Natashquan 1 5 15 18 19 0.93 0.95 1 5 7 17 19 0.94 0.94
Sept-Îles 1 5 15 18 19 0.93 0.96 1 5 12 18 19 0.93 0.96
For each predictor, the number refers to the atmospheric variables defined in Tables 1 and 2 (for each respective GCM grid).
820 M. Hessami et al. / Environmental Modelling & Software 23 (2008) 813e834

Table 7
Results of ASD model calibration (1961e1975) for mean temperature using NCEP predictors interpolated on the CGCM1 and on the HadCM3 grids
Station CGCM1 grid HadCM3 grid
2 2
Predictors R R (ridge) Predictors R2 R2 (ridge)
Cartwright 1 4 5 18 19 0.93 0.95 1 5 7 17 19 0.94 0.95
Goose bay 1 5 15 18 19 0.96 0.97 1 5 7 17 19 0.95 0.97
Kuujjuaq 1 5 18 19 24 0.96 0.97 1 3 5 19 23 0.96 0.97
Schefferville 1 3 5 16 19 0.97 0.98 1 3 5 18 19 0.96 0.97
Causapascal 1 5 12 18 19 0.96 0.97 1 3 5 16 19 0.96 0.97
Daniel Harbour 1 5 11 18 19 0.94 0.95 1 5 11 15 19 0.95 0.96
Gaspé 1 5 9 18 19 0.96 0.97 1 3 5 18 19 0.96 0.96
Mont-Joli 1 5 12 18 19 0.96 0.97 1 3 5 16 19 0.96 0.97
Natashquan 1 5 15 18 19 0.95 0.96 1 5 15 17 19 0.95 0.96
Sept-Îles 1 5 15 18 19 0.96 0.97 1 5 16 18 19 0.96 0.97
For each predictor, the number refers to the atmospheric variables defined in Tables 1 and 2 (for each respective GCM grid).

mean amount of explained variance. When using a similar deterministic part of the model), as suggested in the weak
methodology, the amount of explained variances is the same amount of explained variance in Table 5, and the random pro-
for the two models. cess between simulated series is much higher as the reliable
Overall the NCEP data on CGCM1 and HadCM3 grids pro- predictors are less strongly correlated with the precipitation
vide similar results for model calibration, as well as for model as compared to the equivalent ones for temperatures. As also
validation, with only few differences for precipitation and no shown in Table 9, the RMSE for temperature indices is quite
differences for temperature. In order to analyze in more detail weak in all cases, suggesting a strong capacity to downscale
the effect of interpolation of NCEP predictors over the two the temperature variables, with similar performance between
GCMs grids on the downscaling results and the various perfor- SDSM and ASD. As shown in Table 10, few differences exist
mance of the ASD model over the calibration and the valida- in the RMSE values between the validation and the calibration
tion periods, one representative station (i.e. Schefferville) is periods (as shown in Table 9), in spite of slight increase in
used to evaluate RMSE criteria in Tables 9 and 10 (over these RMSE for precipitation indices, but this is not systematic for
two periods, respectively), and through graphical analysis with other indices.
box plots graphs shown in Figs. 4e7. In these last figures, only As show in Figs. 4e7, results for monthly mean values of
results using NCEP predictors interpolated on to the HadCM3 precipitation, and of maximum, mean and minimum tempera-
grid are shown, as Figs. 8e22 using both the two series of tures indicate that ASD replicate observed inter-monthly and
NCEP and of GCMs predictors over the all 1961e1990 period inter-annual variability faithfully, except for precipitation in
are shown and discussed in Section 4.2. January, February and March where strong changes in the var-
As shown in Table 9, the RMSE of the estimated statistics iability (IQR and extreme values) are not well captured by the
and climatic indices for the calibration period is quite similar model. For other months and in particular for temperatures,
between the two series of results with NCEP predictors inter- the performance of the ASD model is almost as good over
polated over the two GCMs grids, with negligible differences the verification/validation period as it is over the calibration
in most cases (mainly below 0.5 for all indices and maximum period, indicating that the empirical model has not been overfit
of 2 days for FSL). The slight differences appear for precipi- to the data (i.e. due mainly to the following factors: number
tation amount and occurrence (i.e. wet days) as the stochastic and type of selected predictors, statistical model, stability of
part is much higher in that case (i.e. compared to the the relationships between predictand/predictors according to

Table 8
Results of ASD model calibration (1961e1975) for minimum temperature using NCEP predictors interpolated on the CGCM1 and on the HadCM3 grids
Station CGCM1 grid HadCM3 grid
2 2
Predictors R R (ridge) Predictors R2 R2 (ridge)
Cartwright 1 5 16 18 19 0.91 0.93 1 5 7 15 19 0.90 0.93
Goose bay 1 5 15 18 19 0.94 0.95 1 5 15 18 19 0.93 0.95
Kuujjuaq 1 5 11 18 19 0.94 0.96 1 3 5 19 23 0.94 0.96
Schefferville 1 3 5 15 19 0.94 0.95 1 5 18 19 23 0.94 0.95
Causapscal 1 3 5 9 19 0.91 0.93 1 2 5 19 23 0.92 0.93
Daniel Harbour 1 5 7 19 21 0.91 0.92 1 5 17 19 23 0.91 0.92
Gaspé 1 3 5 18 19 0.92 0.94 1 3 5 18 19 0.92 0.94
Mont-Joli 1 5 9 18 19 0.94 0.95 1 3 5 16 19 0.94 0.95
Natashquan 1 2 5 18 19 0.93 0.94 1 2 5 17 19 0.93 0.94
Sept-Îles 1 5 16 18 19 0.95 0.96 1 5 16 19 23 0.95 0.96
For each predictor, the number refers to the atmospheric variables defined in Tables 1 and 2 (for each respective GCM grid).
M. Hessami et al. / Environmental Modelling & Software 23 (2008) 813e834 821

Table 9 4.2. Analysis of observed and estimated statistics and


RMSE of the estimated statistics and climatic indices during calibration period climatic indices using CGCM1 and HadCM3 predictors:
at Schefferville based on NCEP predictors (interpolated on the CGCM1 and
HadCM3 grids)
example at Schefferville station
CGCM1 grid HadCM3 grid
One representative station is also used in this section to il-
SDSM ASD SDSM ASD lustrate the results from ASD and SDSM in using GCMs pre-
Mean prec. (mm/day) 0.29 0.16 0.41 0.15 dictors, and in comparing the RMSE values as well as box
STD prec. (mm/day) 0.53 0.37 0.71 0.40 plots graphs of basic variables and climate indices with respect
PRCP1 (%) 4.49 5.14 4.00 4.76
SDII (mm/wet day) 1.59 0.44 1.58 0.42
to observed data over the complete 1961e1990 period. In the
CDD (day) 0.98 0.78 1.10 0.87 box plots graphs, the results in using NCEP predictors are also
R3days (mm) 3.13 4.30 3.32 4.89 included as a reference for this baseline period (i.e. calibra-
PREC90 (mm/day) 1.95 0.72 2.10 0.96 tion/validation in a reanalysis mode), and compared with
Mean Tmax ( C) 0.01 0.02 0.01 0.02 results driven by GCMs (i.e. evaluation in a climate mode).
STD Tmax ( C) 0.14 0.09 0.15 0.08
Mean Tmin ( C) 0.02 0.01 0.01 0.01
Figs. 8e11 compare the monthly observed and estimated
STD Tmin ( C) 0.43 0.33 0.20 0.20 mean and standard deviation of precipitation and tempera-
Mean Tmean ( C) 0.01 0.01 0.01 0.01 tures, and Figs. 12e22 compare the seasonal or annual ob-
STD Tmean ( C) 0.16 0.13 0.11 0.11 served and estimated values of climate indices. Table 11
DTR ( C) 0.48 0.43 0.52 0.55 provides the RMSE criteria from SDSM and ASD results
FSLs (day) 3.62 3.54 1.23 1.65
GSL (day) 2.31 2.60 1.82 2.07
based on GCMs predictors (both CGCM1 and HadCM3) for
FreTh (day) 0.90 0.91 0.85 0.83 each basic variable and climate index.
Tmax90 ( C) 0.19 0.22 0.25 0.24 For basic variables (monthly mean and standard deviation
Tmin10 ( C) 0.41 0.38 0.37 0.32 of precipitation and temperature shown in Figs. 8e11), the
performance of models can vary on a month-to-month basis.
different climate regimes and collinearity between predictors). However, for temperature, the results with SDSM and ASD
However, the spreading of high extreme values in the ASD re- are more often better with HadCM3 predictors than those us-
sults for precipitation with respect to observed data suggests ing CGCM1 (as shown in Figs. 9e11). As noted earlier, the
a well known problem of poorest representation of extreme NCEP driven downscaling results for temperature are not de-
events and observed variability from regression-based statisti- pendent on the interpolation process over the two GCMs grids,
cal downscaling method in particular for precipitation (e.g. neither on the downscaling models. For precipitation, the per-
Wilby et al., 2004), as for SDSM (see Gachon et al., 2005). formance is equivalent between the two downscaling models
For temperatures, including extreme values, ASD performs as in the recent study of Gachon et al. (2005). In that case,
relatively well (box plots not shown) with similar results com- all results are similar in terms of median and IQR estimated
pared to the SDSM model (see the RMSE in Tables 9 and 10). values in using NCEP or GCMs predictors, with over-spread-
ing in extremes of daily precipitation as shown in Fig. 8.
For the climate indices of precipitation, the percentages of
Table 10
RMSE of the estimated statistics and climatic indices during validation period
wet days (PRCP1) calculated by season have median observed
at Schefferville based on NCEP predictors (interpolated on the CGCM1 and values varying between 26 and 49 days (Fig. 12). Most of the
HadCM3 grids) simulated time series from GCMs predictors underestimated
CGCM1 grid HadCM3 grid the median observed percentage during all four seasons, ex-
SDSM ASD SDSM ASD
cept in winter with ASD and in summer with both SDSM
and ASD driven all by HadCM3 predictors. In general, the
Mean prec. (mm/day) 0.41 0.56 0.79 0.57
STD prec. (mm/day) 0.68 0.91 0.96 1.01
only simulated values that appear to be less biased were the
PRCP1 (%) 5.72 6.68 7.51 6.05 ASD model using these predictors (model 9 in Fig. 12) during
SDII (mm/wet day) 1.16 0.39 1.43 0.45 the winter, spring and autumn. Box and whiskers plots in
CDD (day) 0.62 0.63 1.61 0.42 Fig. 12 also show that the simulated values generally have
R3days (mm) 4.44 9.58 7.58 11.56 a greater variance than the observed values, with excessive
PREC90 (mm) 1.26 1.72 2.47 2.07
Mean Tmax ( C) 0.40 0.40 0.48 0.49
outliers in general. In most cases, comparable skill is obtained
STD Tmax ( C) 0.36 0.32 0.24 0.21 between NCEP driven conditions and in using GCMs predic-
Mean Tmin ( C) 0.55 0.52 0.35 0.33 tors. Fig. 13 shows that for simple daily intensity index (SDII)
STD Tmin ( C) 0.48 0.39 0.30 0.34 all models driven by GCMs overestimated the median values
Mean Tmean ( C) 0.36 0.35 0.37 0.35 for all seasons with bias on the order of 2 mm/wet day. Over
STD Tmean ( C) 0.23 0.22 0.25 0.22
DTR ( C) 0.24 0.20 0.58 0.64
all seasons, the ASD model tends to outperform SDSM in us-
FSLs (day) 6.62 6.82 5.60 4.54 ing NCEP predictors as no systematic higher skill is suggested
GSL (day) 4.78 3.97 2.97 2.07 from GCMs downscaling results. Also, systematic outliers in
FreTh (day) 0.94 0.88 0.80 0.77 estimated values of SDII are suggested from all downscaling
Tmax90 ( C) 0.40 0.45 0.12 0.22 results. For the maximum number of consecutive dry days
Tmin10 ( C) 0.89 0.86 0.77 0.78
(CDD shown in Fig. 14), median values of observation and
822 M. Hessami et al. / Environmental Modelling & Software 23 (2008) 813e834

Fig. 4. Box plots of mean for monthly precipitation model using 100 simulations based on NCEP predictors interpolated on HadCM3 at Schefferville, over the
calibration (1961e1975) and the validation (1976e1990) periods. The red lines represent the median values, the Interquartile Range (IQR, i.e. 25th and 75th quar-
tiles) is represented by boxes and 1.5  IQR by whiskers. The red crosses correspond to outliers. (For interpretation of the references to colour in figure legends,
the reader is refered to the web version of this article).

Jan Feb Mar Apr


-10 4
-10 2
-5
Mean (ºC)

0
-15 -2
-20 -10 -4
-20 -6
-15 -8
1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4

May Jun Jul Aug


18 20 20
10
16
Mean (ºC)

8 14
6 12 15
4 15
10
2 8
1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4

Sep Oct Nov Dec


15 6 -2
-10
Mean (ºC)

4 -4
10 2 -6 -15
0 -8
-20
-2 -10
5
1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4

1-OBSERVATION (1961-1975) 3-OBSERVATION (1976-1990)


2-ASD (1961-1975) 4-ASD (1976-1990)

Fig. 5. Box plots of mean for monthly maximum temperature model using 100 simulations based on NCEP predictors interpolated on HadCM3 at Schefferville,
over the calibration (1961e1975) and the validation (1976e1990) periods.
M. Hessami et al. / Environmental Modelling & Software 23 (2008) 813e834 823

Jan Feb Mar Apr

-15 -10

Mean (ºC)
-20 -5
-20 -15
-10
-25 -20
-30
-15
1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4

May Jun Jul Aug


6 15
14
4
Mean (ºC)

10
2 12
0
10
-2 5 10 8
-4
1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4

Sep Oct Nov Dec


4 -10
10 -5
2
Mean (ºC)

0
-10 -20
-2
5
-4
-6 -15 -30
1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4

1-OBSERVATION (1961-1975) 3-OBSERVATION (1976-1990)


2-ASD (1961-1975) 4-ASD (1976-1990)

Fig. 6. Box plots of mean for monthly mean temperature model using 100 simulations based on NCEP predictors interpolated on HadCM3 at Schefferville, over the
calibration (1961e1975) and the validation (1976e1990) periods.

Jan Feb Mar Apr


-20
-20
Mean (ºC)

-10
-20
-30 -30
-20
-30
1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4

May Jun Jul Aug


2 6 10
0
Mean (ºC)

-2 4 8
-4 2
-6 6 5
-8 0
1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4

Sep Oct Nov Dec


6 -15
0
Mean (ºC)

4 -10 -20
-2
2 -4 -25
-15
-6 -30
0
-8 -20 -35
1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4

1-OBSERVATION (1961-1975) 3-OBSERVATION (1976-1990)


2-ASD (1961-1975) 4-ASD (1976-1990)

Fig. 7. Box plots of mean for monthly minimum temperature model using 100 simulations based on NCEP predictors interpolated on HadCM3 at Schefferville,
over the calibration (1961e1975) and the validation (1976e1990) periods.
824 M. Hessami et al. / Environmental Modelling & Software 23 (2008) 813e834

Fig. 8. Box plots of mean and standard deviation for monthly precipitation models during 1961e1990 at Schefferville.

simulation time series only differ by 1e2 days in most cases, index (R3days) with an underestimation of the median values
and no important bias in the simulated values is apparent. for spring season by all models using CGCM1 predictors and
However, in all cases, both ASD and SDSM overestimate with an overestimation of extremes in all seasons and what-
the highest values of CDD with also excessive outliers. ever driven conditions or downscaling models. Median values
Also, all downscaling results are quite similar with no obvious of the 90th percentile of observed daily rain amounts
better skill with NCEP driven conditions compared to GCMs (PREC90), shown in Fig. 16, are generally well reproduced
ones. Fig. 15 shows the maximum 3-days precipitation total with a maximum bias of 4 mm/day (with SDSM using
M. Hessami et al. / Environmental Modelling & Software 23 (2008) 813e834 825

Fig. 9. Box plots of mean and standard deviation for monthly maximum temperature models during 1961e1990 at Schefferville.

HadCM3 predictors in summer season). All models overesti- all results whatever the driving conditions, i.e. NCEP or
mated the median spring, summer and autumn values. All ob- GCMs.
served values were below 24 mm, irrespective of season, and For the climate indices of temperature, Fig. 17 shows that
singular simulated values over this threshold are quite com- the median of the diurnal temperature range (DTR) is well re-
mon (with outliers ranging between 19 and 40 mm), suggest- produced with a 0e3  C bias in the simulated values com-
ing a strong dispersion from the stochastic component of the pared to the observed ones, except poorest results with
two models. Again no obvious differences are suggested in SDSM over summer, and with SDSM and ASD over winter
826 M. Hessami et al. / Environmental Modelling & Software 23 (2008) 813e834

Fig. 10. Box plots of mean and standard deviation for monthly minimum temperature models during 1961e1990 at Schefferville.

driven, respectively, by CGCM1 and HadCM3. Generally in lowest values. Fig. 19 shows the observed median value of the
winter, the two models overestimate the DTR, both in median GSL index was around 100 days whereas the simulated values
and higher values. Fig. 18 shows the observed and simulated were 90, 110, 108 and 105 days for SDSM (CGCM1), ASD
frost season length index, relatively well reproduced by ASD (CGCM1), SDSM (HadCM3) and ASD (HadCM3), respec-
and SDSM models for the median values. Here, SDSM using tively. All downscaling series overestimate the variability with
CGCM1 data provides poorest estimation of FSL indices. the poorest results coming from SDSM driven by CGCM1,
However, all simulated indices overestimate the variability with strong shift of the statistical distribution (mainly lower
with respect to the observed one, as well as the number of values than observed). In that case, ASD strongly improves
M. Hessami et al. / Environmental Modelling & Software 23 (2008) 813e834 827

Fig. 11. Box plots of mean and standard deviation for monthly mean temperature models during 1961e1990 at Schefferville.

the corresponding values from the same series of predictors, by that case, strong compatibility from results driven by NCEP for
comparison with SDSM. The observed and simulated FreTh in- both ASD and SDSM is revealed. The 90th percentile of daily
dex shown in Fig. 20 suggests that all models using HadCM3 maximum temperature (Tmax90) shown in Fig. 21 suggests
data provide better estimation for this index, especially with that all models overestimated the winter median, with more of-
the ASD model. The stronger bias appears in winter and in ten the best results simulated by ASD using HadCM3 predictors.
July and August in terms of overestimated variance and singular For the spring, ASD using CGCM1 estimated also very well the
values, where the Frost/Thaw observed cycle is weaker. Also in median value. We can also notice that excessive outliers are
828 M. Hessami et al. / Environmental Modelling & Software 23 (2008) 813e834

Fig. 12. PRCP1 precipitation index at Schefferville during 1961e1990 using Fig. 14. CDD precipitation index at Schefferville during 1961e1990 using 100
100 simulations based on NCEP and GCM predictors. simulations based on NCEP and GCM predictors.

more common with NCEP driven conditions than with GCMs example, for the summer, SDSM using CGCM1 predictors
ones, especially in spring, summer and fall. Fig. 22 shows that showed a strong bias, with a median of 3.2  C compared to
the 10th percentiles of daily minimum temperature were gener- observed value of 0.7  C. Also, excessive outliers and values
ally well reproduced by SDSM and ASD models, except in win- around 0  C are present in the simulated values of ASD in the
ter, summer and fall when SDSM is driven by CGCM1. For fall season.

Fig. 13. SDII precipitation index at Schefferville during 1961e1990 using 100 Fig. 15. R3days precipitation index at Schefferville during 1961e1990 using
simulations based on NCEP and GCM predictors. 100 simulations based on NCEP and GCM predictors.
M. Hessami et al. / Environmental Modelling & Software 23 (2008) 813e834 829

300

280

260

FSL(day)
240

220

200

180

160

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

1-OBSERVATION 5-ASD(NCEP on HADCM3 grid)


2-SDSM(NCEP on CGCM1 grid) 6-SDSM(CGCM1)
3-ASD(NCEP on CGCM1 grid) 7-ASD(CGCM1)
4-SDSM(NCEP on HADCM3 grid) 8-SDSM(HADCM3)
9-ASD(HADCM3)

Fig. 18. FSLs temperature index at Schefferville during 1961e1990 using 100
simulations based on NCEP and GCM predictors.
Fig. 16. PREC90 precipitation index at Schefferville during 1961e1990 using
100 simulations based on NCEP and GCM predictors.
all results from HadCM3 predictors, ASD gives clearly the
In Table 11, the comparison of RMSE indicates that ASD best results (i.e. lowest RMSE) as suggested also in the box
provides better results in general (i.e. strong majority of the re- plots graphs (Figs. 12e22). For temperature, ASD gives also
sults) than SDSM except for mean precipitation amount and its the best results and strongly improves the biases in extremes
standard deviation, intensity per wet days, consecutive dry compared to SDSM when this model is driven by CGCM1.
days, 90th percentile of rain day amount, standard deviation This reveals the usefulness of Eqs. (4) and (5) to set automat-
of both minimum and maximum temperature and diurnal tem- ically the VIF and the bias when generating scenarios from
perature range, with CGCM1 predictors. For other indices and GCM data by the model whose coefficients are obtained

180

160

140
GSL(day)

120

100

80

60

40
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

1-OBSERVATION 5-ASD(NCEP on HADCM3 grid)


2-SDSM(NCEP on CGCM1 grid) 6-SDSM(CGCM1)
3-ASD(NCEP on CGCM1 grid) 7-ASD(CGCM1)
4-SDSM(NCEP on HADCM3 grid) 8-SDSM(HADCM3)
9-ASD(HADCM3)

Fig. 17. DTR temperature index at Schefferville during 1961e1990 using 100 Fig. 19. GSLs temperature index at Schefferville during 1961e1990 using 100
simulations based on NCEP and GCM predictors. simulations based on NCEP and GCM predictors.
830 M. Hessami et al. / Environmental Modelling & Software 23 (2008) 813e834

Fig. 20. FreTh temperature index at Schefferville during 1961e1990 using 100 simulations based on NCEP and GCM predictors.

Fig. 21. Tmax90 temperature index at Schefferville during 1961e1990 using Fig. 22. Tmin10 temperature index at Schefferville during 1961e1990 using
100 simulations based on NCEP and GCM predictors. 100 simulations based on NCEP and GCM predictors.
M. Hessami et al. / Environmental Modelling & Software 23 (2008) 813e834 831

Table 11 predictor variables 22, 25 and 26 from NCEP data interpolated


RMSE of the estimated statistics and climatic indices during 1961e1990 on CGCM1 grid and the variables 24, 25 and 26 from NCEP
period at Schefferville based on GCMs predictors
data interpolated on HadCM3 grid, as suggested in Section 3.
CGCM1 HadCM3 When using ridge regression, it can be seen from Table 5 that
SDSM ASD SDSM ASD the precipitation model explained variances have been greatly
Mean prec. (mm/day) 0.33 0.41 0.79 0.54 improved. For example when using NCEP data interpolated on
STD prec. (mm/day) 0.52 0.70 1.11 0.60 the HadCM3 grid, the precipitation model explained variance
PRCP1 (%) 6.73 5.05 5.16 3.69 was 0.34 for Schefferville with the use of the ridge regression.
SDII (mm/wet day) 1.19 1.54 2.03 1.43
CDD (day) 0.29 0.58 1.27 0.68
These values were 0.25 when multiple linear regression is used
R3days (mm) 5.24 3.28 8.75 2.25 with five predictors. However, it can be seen from Tables 6e8,
PREC90 (mm) 1.29 1.59 3.12 1.40 slight improvement for temperature models based on ridge
Mean Tmax ( C) 3.40 0.52 1.59 0.74 regression. Hence, the ridge regression mainly improved the
STD Tmax ( C) 0.74 1.06 0.90 0.49 explained variance for the precipitation process in which low
Mean Tmin ( C) 3.22 0.53 0.92 0.67
STD Tmin ( C) 0.56 1.18 0.80 0.30
correlation between predictors and predictand is common,
Mean Tmean ( C) 3.36 0.51 0.98 0.69 with strong probability to have collinearity between predic-
STD Tmean ( C) 0.64 1.09 0.72 0.37 tors, as too many variables and parameters in the model are
DTR ( C) 0.57 1.60 1.29 0.41 highly correlated. Also, it allows the user to implement
FSLs (day) 14.35 2.76 2.95 0.07 a model without discriminating predictors a priori. The user
GSL (day) 11.70 7.19 4.40 3.14
FreTh (day) 3.40 1.40 2.24 1.06
can thus decide to select all predictors or some predictors
Tmax90 ( C) 2.48 0.99 1.50 0.40 based on experience and their physical characteristics without
Tmin10 ( C) 3.13 0.92 1.21 1.16 considering the non-orthogonality, which is inherently taken
into account in the ridge regression algorithm.

from NCEP data. It is important to mention that SDSM results


are obtained by a skilled user and the best VIF and the bias are 5. Discussion
obtained by trial and error. However, comparable results are
obtained by ASD with ease very quickly. This is an important The choice of predictor variables is one of the most influ-
advantage of ASD. Therefore, as suggested in Table 11 by ential steps in the development of statistical downscaling
comparison with Tables 9 and 10 with NCEP predictors, no scheme (both with automatic and manual selection) because
systematic decrease of performance in using GCMs predictors the decision largely determines the character of the downscal-
instead of NCEP ones, especially for precipitation with similar ing results. It is essential to remember that predictors relevant
performance for mean amount and majority of precipitation to the local predictand should be adequately reproduced by the
indices, whereas the downscaled temperatures and their ex- host climate model at the spatial scales used to condition the
tremes are better simulated by NCEP driven conditions. For downscaled response. Prior knowledge of climate model lim-
standard deviation at monthly scale, the results are mostly sim- itations is essential when screening potential predictors, i.e.
ilar (i.e. inter-annual variability of maximum and minimum predictors have to be chosen on the balance of their relevance
temperature). Finally, in strong majority of the results from to the target predictand and their accurate representation by
GCMs variables, the best downscaled values are obtained climate models (Wilby and Wigley, 2000; Wilby et al.,
when the statistical models were driven by HadCM3 predic- 2004). In our case, we have undertaken GCM verification
tors, as in the recent study of Dibike et al. (2007) in northern for few important predictors of interest, as low air temperature
Canada. and specific and relative humidity near the surface. Strong
biases have been found and in order to prevent the propagation
4.3. Model calibration using ridge regression of errors into the downscaling process (see Gachon et al.,
2005; Dibike et al., 2007; Gachon and Dibike, 2007), we
All of the results previously shown were obtained using have excluded these variables in the list of potential predictors.
multiple linear regressions because that component of ASD In using or not an automatic process for the selection of pre-
is more akin to the one provided by SDSM, which is the basis dictors, the scrupulous analysis of the candidate predictors is
of comparison. The implementation of the ridge regression is needed as those must be strongly correlated with the target
also briefly investigated here. We have used ridge regression variable, makes physical sense and captures multiyear vari-
with the five predictors selected by the stepwise regression ability (Wilby et al., 2004). Further works are needed in that
(Tables 5e8) and we obtained values of explained variance matter, in order to systematically evaluate the accuracy of can-
equal to those obtained with multiple linear regressions. How- didate predictors and incorporate other independent data series
ever, when ridge regression is implemented using all predic- with other GCMs, especially those recently released by IPCC
tors, model explained variances increase. (International Panel on Climate Change) and PCMDI (Pro-
Tables 5e8 include also the explained variance when ASD gram for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison)
model calibration is based on ridge regression for each predic- and incorporated in the Fourth Assessment Report of IPCC
tand. For each station, all predictors have been used except the (2007).
832 M. Hessami et al. / Environmental Modelling & Software 23 (2008) 813e834

Therefore, the best performing predictors or combination of for all areas analyzed in northern and northeastern Canada.
predictors for current climate (NCEP or GCMs) does not nec- However, the potential effect of regional sea-ice processes
essarily mean those predictors are the most suitable for future and change in land cover (i.e. in particular the snow cover du-
changed climate conditions. For example, Murphy (1999) ration) is not well captured in the downscaling process. As sea-
found that a moisture predictor was not selected when it is ex- ice formation and retreat are coarsely simulated at the regional
pected that changes in moisture will influence precipitation, scale by most GCMs, such feedbacks are not adequately taken
and Charles et al. (1999) found that relative humidity but into account in the remaining predictors. Nevertheless, as sug-
not specific humidity produced downscaled estimates consis- gested in previous studies on a regression-based approach, the
tent with RCM projections. In our study, the downscaling use of relevant combination of predictors and not only a single
procedure of precipitation and temperature is not only based one or issued from the same physical processes is crucial, if pos-
on circulation variables (i.e. represented by geopotential, vor- sible representing different combinations of circulation, temper-
ticity or the wind component) but also includes other variables ature and humidity predictors.
such as temperature (through geopotential heights at various
levels and specific/relative humidity near the mid-troposphere) 6. Conclusion
and moisture variables (specific/relative humidity). This is in
agreement with other studies (Wilby et al., 1998; Huth, In this paper, an automated statistical downscaling method-
1999, 2002, 2004; Gachon et al., 2005) which have shown ology was presented using a backward stepwise regression for
that the use of combined predictors (circulation and tempera- predictors’ selection. Like other regression approaches, the re-
ture) is superior to that of any single predictor when downscal- sults indicate the strength of statistical downscaling for mod-
ing temperature and/or precipitation. This approach also eling temperature and less success for precipitation. When
avoids the assumption that changes in surface climate ele- modeling precipitation, the most commonly used predictor
ments due to the enhanced greenhouse effect can be derived variables were relative and specific humidity at 500 hPa, sur-
from changes in circulation alone, as this for example can face airflow strength, 850 hPa zonal velocity and 500 hPa geo-
lead to unrealistically low temperature change estimates (as potential height. For modeling temperature, mean sea level
suggested in Huth, 2004). Also, as suggested by Crane and pressure, surface vorticity and 850 hPa geopotential height
Hewitson (1998) and Wilby et al. (1998) including humidity were the most dominant variables. To evaluate the perfor-
not only improves the transfer function predictions for the mance of statistical downscaling approach, several climatic
present climate but also reduces the stationarity issue noted and statistical indices have been analyzed. The results indicate
above, as the dynamics and the humidity fields become sepa- that the agreement of simulations with observations depends
rate predictor variables in the downscaling function. on the statistical model and the GCM data, and the perfor-
As shown in the recent study of Gachon and Dibike (2007), mance of the statistical downscaling model varies for different
the SDSM model is able to simulate reliable and plausible stations and between seasons. From this study, the result com-
changes in mean values as well as probabilities of extreme parison of SDSM and ASD models has shown that neither
temperatures, in some specific locations in northern Canada, model consistently outperforms the other for the precipitation
from mainly the same sets of available predictors (from regime. For temperature, ASD outperforms SDSM with
CGCM2 and HadCM3) and using two emission scenarios HadCM3 predictors, and in the majority of the time with
(i.e. SRES A2 and B2). Over the period 2070e2099, the re- CGCM1 predictors. Overall results suggest also that HadCM3
sults demonstrate that the SDSM model is able to capture driven conditions give more often the best results, as revealed
the major part of the temperature change signal, with a plausi- in other recent study over Canada (Gachon et al., 2005; Dibike
ble climatic regime for higher warming in winter than in sum- et al., 2007).
mer and in A2 than in B2 runs. The combination of relevant The quality of SDSM results depends mostly on the skill of
atmospheric predictors in the downscaling process is able to the user; however, similar results can be obtained using ASD
take into account most key factors of the temperature change with ease very quickly. ASD reduces the problem of predictor
signal, with strong convergence in the magnitude and the tim- selection and it is computationally more efficient than SDSM
ing of the changes in all results. However, some potential un- and it is capable of performing all steps of statistical down-
derestimation of the warming from the downscaled signal scaling automatically. At the same time, the user can interfere
remains, as the regression method is inherently conservative in the process and is not limited to implementing this tool
in the presence of non-stationarity in the climate system. merely as a black box. However, using different statistical
Also, while empirical downscaling gives the first-order re- downscaling models can provide a better estimation of uncer-
sponse to the regional or local climate change, the regres- tainty for simulated climatic and statistical indices. The use of
sion-based method is unable to incorporate local-scale multi-sources GCM input together has the potential to provide
feedbacks, in particular the radiative effect based on cloud better results. This also allows to increase our confidence in
cover feedbacks. This leads to an underestimation of the projections for future climate changes scenarios when apply-
change in the local temperature regime, in particular in sum- ing the statistical models to a wide range of climate models
mer. In other seasons, stronger signals from changes in synop- to evaluate the uncertainties associated with different GCM
tic scale forcing are better taken into account in the statistical structures (as suggested in the guidelines of Wilby et al.,
downscaling scheme (from wind, geopotential and vorticity) 2004). Future studies will benefit from this feature by using
M. Hessami et al. / Environmental Modelling & Software 23 (2008) 813e834 833

other method, as a non-linear approach like artificial neural Flato, G.M., Boer, G.J., Lee, W.G., McFarlane, N.A., Ramsden, D.,
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in Africa with encouraging results in reconstructing the occur- Eastern Canada. Sub-component, Climate Change Action Fund (CCAF),
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The authors would like to thank Dr. Rob Wilby and Dr. Chris- IPCC, 2007. Climate Change 2007. The Physical Science Basis. Contribution
tian Dawson for their feedbacks during the CCAF project and of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovern-
Dr. Elaine Barrow to have given the access of GCMs predic- mental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Summary for Policymakers.
tors developed by CCIS. Available from: <http://www.ipcc.ch> (accessed 10.03.07).
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