Abstract

Biases in climate model simulations introduce biases in subsequent impact simulations. Therefore, bias correction methods are operationally used to post-process regional climate projections. However, many problems have been identified, and some researchers question the very basis of the approach. Here we demonstrate that a typical cross-validation is unable to identify improper use of bias correction. Several examples show the limited ability of bias correction to correct and to downscale variability, and demonstrate that bias correction can cause implausible climate change signals. Bias correction cannot overcome major model errors, and naive application might result in ill-informed adaptation decisions. We conclude with a list of recommendations and suggestions for future research to reduce, post-process, and cope with climate model biases.

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Acknowledgements

Many of the ideas laid out in this paper have been developed during discussions within the EU COST Action ES1102 ‘VALUE’, in particular during the workshop ‘Global climate model biases: causes, consequences and correctability’ held at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Hamburg, October 2014.

Author information

Author notes

    • Stefan Hagemann

    Present address: Institute for Coastal Research, Helmholtz Centre Geesthacht, 21502 Geesthacht, Germany.

Affiliations

  1. University of Graz, Wegener Center for Climate and Global Change, Brandhofgasse 5, 8010 Graz, Austria

    • Douglas Maraun
  2. Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, PO Box 243, Reading RG6 6BB, UK

    • Theodore G. Shepherd
    •  & Giuseppe Zappa
  3. School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK

    • Martin Widmann
  4. Institute of the Envionment and Sustainability, University of California, Los Angeles, California 90095, USA

    • Daniel Walton
  5. Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, California 90095, USA

    • Daniel Walton
    •  & Alex Hall
  6. Institute of Physics of Cantabria, CSIC - University of Cantabria, Avenida de los Castros, s/n, 39005 Santander, Spain

    • José M. Gutiérrez
  7. Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Bundestrasse 53, 20146 Hamburg, Germany

    • Stefan Hagemann
  8. Japan-Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC), 3173-25, Showa-machi, Kanazawa-ku, Yokohama 236-0001, Japan

    • Ingo Richter
  9. Instituto Dom Luiz, Faculty of Sciences, University of Lisbon, 1749-016 Lisbon, Portugal

    • Pedro M. M. Soares
  10. National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), PO Box 3000, Boulder, Colorado 80307, USA

    • Linda O. Mearns

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Contributions

The paper is a result of a workshop organized by D.M. and S.H. D.M. wrote the first draft of the manuscript with inputs from all authors. D.M., G.Z., J.M.G. and D.W. contributed analyses underlying the figures. All authors discussed the content of the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Douglas Maraun.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate3418

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