Cross-validation of bias-corrected climate simulations is misleading

Douglas Maraun, Martin Widmann

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17 Citations (Scopus)
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We demonstrate both analytically and with a modelling example that cross-validation of free-running biascorrected climate change simulations against observations is misleading. The underlying reasoning is as follows: a crossvalidation can have in principle two outcomes. A negative (in the sense of not rejecting a null hypothesis), if the residual bias in the validation period after bias correction vanishes; and a positive, if the residual bias in the validation period after bias correction is large. It can be shown analytically that the residual bias depends solely on the difference between the simulated and observed change between calibration and validation periods. This change, however, depends mainly on the realizations of internal variability in the observations and climate model. As a consequence, the outcome of a cross-validation is also dominated by internal variability, and does not allow for any conclusion about the sensibility of a bias correction. In particular, a sensible bias correction may be rejected (false positive) and a non-sensible bias correction may be accepted (false negative). We therefore propose to avoid cross-validation when evaluating bias correction of free-running bias-corrected climate change simulations against observations. Instead, one should evaluate noncalibrated temporal, spatial and process-based aspects.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4867–4873
Number of pages7
JournalHydrology and Earth System Sciences
Publication statusPublished - 18 Sept 2018


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