Evaluation of downscaled wind speeds and parameterised gusts for recent and historical windstorms in Switzerland

Stucki, Peter; Dierer, Silke; Welker, Christoph Simon; Gómez-Navarro, Juan José; Raible, Christoph; Martius, Olivia; Brönnimann, Stefan (2016). Evaluation of downscaled wind speeds and parameterised gusts for recent and historical windstorms in Switzerland. Tellus. Series A - dynamic meteorology and oceanography, 68(1), p. 31820. Blackwell Munksgaard 10.3402/tellusa.v68.31820

31820-208051-1-PB.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons: Attribution (CC-BY).

Download (9MB) | Preview

Assessments of local-scale windstorm hazard require highly resolved spatial information on wind speeds and gusts. In this study, maximum (peak) sustained wind speeds on a 3-km horizontal grid over Switzerland are obtained by dynamical downscaling from the Twentieth Century Reanalysis (20CR) employing the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model. Subsequently, simulated peak gusts are derived using four wind gust parameterizations (WGPs). Evaluations against observations at 63 locations in complex terrain include four high-impact windstorms (occurring in 1919, 1935, 1990, and 1999) and 14 recent windstorms (occurring between 1993 and 2011). Peak sustained wind speeds and directions are generally well simulated, although wind speeds are mostly overestimated. In general, performance and skill measures are best for locations on the Swiss Plateau and inferior for Alpine mountain and valley locations. An independent ERA-Interim WRF downscaling configuration produces overall comparable results, implying that the 20CR ensemble mean is a reliable data set in dynamical downscaling exercises. The four evaluated WGPs largely reproduce the observed gustiness, although the timing and magnitude of the peak gusts are not regularly captured. None of the WGPs stands out as single best for the complex topography of Switzerland. Differences among the WGPs are small compared to the biases inherited from the sustained-wind part in the WGP formulations. All WGPs transform overestimated peak sustained winds into underestimated peak gusts, which points to an underrepresentation of the turbulent part in the WGP formulations. The range of simulated peak gusts from downscaling all 20CR ensemble members does not reliably include the observed peak gust, indicating limited benefit in applying an ensemble approach. Despite the limitations, we infer that with spatial optimisations of the simulation (e.g. by bias correction or adaptation of the WGP schemes), downscaling of 20CR input is an efficient option for high-resolution assessments of windstorm hazard and risk in Switzerland.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography > Physical Geography > Unit Climatology
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography > Physical Geography > Unit Impact
08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute > Climate and Environmental Physics
10 Strategic Research Centers > Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research (OCCR)
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography > Physical Geography

UniBE Contributor:

Stucki, Peter; Welker, Christoph Simon; Raible, Christoph; Romppainen-Martius, Olivia and Brönnimann, Stefan


900 History > 910 Geography & travel
500 Science > 550 Earth sciences & geology
500 Science > 530 Physics




Blackwell Munksgaard


[245] Mobiliar Lab für Naturrisiken Official URL




Monika Wälti-Stampfli

Date Deposited:

15 Sep 2016 09:33

Last Modified:

09 Apr 2017 02:19

Publisher DOI:






Actions (login required)

Edit item Edit item
Provide Feedback