This study comprehensively assesses the performance of 29 Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 6 (CMIP6) Global Climate Models (GCMs) and their ensemble mean (ENS_MEAN) over Vietnam. The spatiotemporal variability of near-surface temperature and precipitation is thoroughly evaluated for the 30-year historical period of 1985–2014. Results show that the models can reasonably reproduce the observational annual cycles and spatial distribution of temperature and precipitation, though their performances vary across the seven climatic sub-regions of Vietnam. Due to their coarse resolutions, the models produce warm biases over certain highland and mountainous areas, and many of them cannot reproduce the rainy season shift from summer in most sub-regions toward the end of the year in Central Vietnam. Finally, these results are summarized, and a performance score is assigned to each model, inferring a ranking. The top three models are EC-Earth3-Veg, EC-Earth3, and HadGEM3-GC31-MM. Although created by simply averaging all the models, ENS_MEAN can compete with the best GCMs and ranks 4th overall. In the same model family, the higher-resolution experiment exhibits a higher ranking than the lower-resolution one. The results of this study can provide a reference for the choice of appropriate CMIP6 GCMs in the upcoming downscaling activities in Vietnam.

  • The performance of 29 CMIP6 GCMs and their ensemble mean has been analyzed and ranked, for the first time over Vietnam.

  • The models reasonably reproduce the observed annual cycles of temperature and rainfall, though their performances may vary across sub-regions.

  • The performance in modeling precipitation has been a fairly key point for ranking the models.

  • The most appropriate CMIP6 GCMs for Vietnam have been identified.

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