Evaluation of Alpine-Mediterranean precipitation events in convection-permitting regional climate models using a set of tracking algorithms

We here inter-compare four different tracking algorithms by applying them onto the precipitation fields of an ensemble of convection-permitting regional climate models (cpRCMs) and on high-resolution observational datasets of precipitation. The domain covers the Alps and the northern Mediterranean and thus we here analyse heavy precipitation events, that are renowned for causing hydrological hazards. In this way, this study is both, an inter-comparison of tracking algorithms as well as an evaluation study of cpRCMs in the Lagrangian frame of reference. The tracker inter-comparison is performed by comparison of two case studies as well as of climatologies of cpRCMs and observations. We find that that all of the trackers produce qualitatively equal results concerning characteristic track properties. This means that, despite of quantitative differences, equivalent scientific conclusions would be drawn. This result suggests that all trackers investigated are reliable analysis tools of atmospheric research. With respect to the model ensemble evaluation, we find an encouraging performance of cpRCMs in comparison to radar-based observations. In particular prominent hotspots of heavy precipitation events are well-reproduced by the models. In general most characteristic properties of precipitation events have positive biases. Assuming the under-catchment of precipitation in observations in a domain of such complex orography, this result is to be expected. Only the mean area of tracks is underestimated, while their duration is overestimated. Mean precipitation rate is estimated well, while maximum precipitation rate is overestimated. Furthermore, geometrical and rain volume are overestimated. We find that models overestimate the occurrence of precipitation events over all mountain chains, whereas over plain terrain in summer precipitation events are seen underestimated. This suggests that, despite the convection-permitting resolution, thermally driven thunderstorms are either not triggered or their dynamics still under-resolved. Eventually we find that biases in the spatio-temporal properties of precipitation events appear reduced when evaluating cpRCMs against Doppler radar-based and rain gauge-adjusted observational datasets of comparable spatial resolution, strengthening their role in evaluation studies.