Climate Dynamics

, Volume 53, Issue 11, pp 6745–6767 | Cite as

Dynamical downscaling over the complex terrain of southwest South America: present climate conditions and added value analysis

  • Deniz BozkurtEmail author
  • Maisa Rojas
  • Juan Pablo Boisier
  • Roberto Rondanelli
  • René Garreaud
  • Laura Gallardo


This study evaluates hindcast simulations performed with a regional climate model (RCM, RegCM4) driven by reanalysis data (ERA-Interim) over the Pacific coast and Andes Cordillera of extratropical South America. A nested domain configuration at \(0.44^{\circ }\) (\(\sim\) 50 km) and \(0.09^{\circ }\) (\(\sim\) 10 km) spatial resolutions is used for the simulations. RegCM4 is also driven by a global climate model (GCM, MPI-ESM-MR) on the same domain configuration to asses the added values for temperature and precipitation (historical simulations). Overall, both 10 km hindcast and historical simulation results are promising and exhibit a better representation of near-surface air temperature and precipitation variability compared to the 50 km simulations. High-resolution simulations suppress an overestimation of precipitation over the Andes Cordillera of northern Chile found with the 50 km simulations. The simulated daily temperature and precipitation extreme indices from 10 km hindcast simulation show a closer estimation of the observed fields. A persistent warm bias (\(\sim +\,{4\,}^{\circ }\hbox {C}\)) over the Atacama Desert in 10 km hindcast simulation reveals the complexity in representing land surface and radiative processes over the desert. Difficulties in capturing the temperature trend in northern Chile are notable for both hindcast simulations. Both resolutions exhibit added values for temperature and precipitation over large parts of Chile, in particular, the 10 km resolves the coastal-valley Andes transitions over central Chile. Our results highlight that resolutions coarser than 50 km (e.g., GCMs and reanalysis) miss important climate gradients imposed by complex topography. Given that the highest spatial resolution of the current regional simulations over the South America is about 50 km, higher resolutions are important to improve our understanding of the dynamical processes that determine climate over complex terrain and extreme environments.


Model evaluation Temporal-spatial scale analysis Climate variability Chile Patagonia Atacama Desert 



This work was funded by FONDAP-CONICYT 15110009. The authors acknowledge the anonymous reviewer for the constructive comments on the manuscript. The simulations were performed within a project entitled “Simulaciones climáticas regionales y marco de evaluación de la vulnerabilidad” funded by Chilean Ministry of Environment. A platform has been developed within that project and all the simulation outputs described in this study can be accessible from that platform following the CORDEX data format protocols, available at The authors appreciate the support from Francisca Muñoz and Nancy Valdebenito at the Data and Computing unit at (CR)2. Powered@NLHPC: This research was supported by the supercomputing infrastructure of the NLHPC (ECM-02)

Supplementary material

382_2019_4959_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (8.6 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (pdf 8808 KB)


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Climate and Resilience ResearchUniversity of ChileSantiagoChile
  2. 2.Department of GeophysicsUniversity of ChileSantiagoChile

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