Pacific Northwest Climate Sensitivity Simulated by a Regional Climate Model Driven by a GCM. Part II: 2×CO2 Simulations

L. R. Leung Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, Washington

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S. J. Ghan Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, Washington

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Abstract

Global climate change due to increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases has stimulated numerous studies and discussions about its possible impacts on water resources. Climate scenarios generated by climate models at spatial resolutions ranging from about 50 km to 400 km may not provide enough spatial specificity for use in impact assessment. In Parts I and II of this paper, the spatial specificity issue is addressed by examining what information on mesoscale and small-scale spatial features can be gained by using a regional climate model with a subgrid parameterization of orographic precipitation and land surface cover, driven by a general circulation model. Numerical experiments have been performed to simulate the present-day climatology and the climate conditions corresponding to a doubling of atmospheric CO2 concentration. This paper describes and contrasts the large-scale and mesoscale features of the greenhouse warming climate signals simulated by the general circulation model and regional climate model over the Pacific Northwest.

Results indicate that changes in the large-scale circulation exhibit strong seasonal variability. There is an average warming of about 2°C, and precipitation generally increases over the Pacific Northwest and decreases over California. The precipitation signal over the Pacific Northwest is only statistically significant during spring, when both the change in the large-scale circulation and increase in water vapor enhance the moisture convergence toward the north Pacific coast. The combined effects of surface temperature and precipitation changes are such that snow cover is reduced by up to 50% on average, causing large changes in the seasonal runoff. This paper also describes the high spatial resolution (1.5 km) climate signals simulated by the regional climate model. Reductions in snow cover of 50%–90% are found in areas near the snow line of the control simulation. Analyses of the variations of the climate signals with surface elevation ranging from sea level to 4000 m over two mountain ranges in the Pacific Northwest show that because of changes in the alitude of the freezing level, strong elevation dependency is found in the surface temperature, rainfall, snowfall, snow cover, and runoff signals.

Corresponding author address: Dr. L. Ruby Leung, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, P.O. Box 999, Richland, WA 99352.

Email: ruby.leung@pnl.gov

Abstract

Global climate change due to increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases has stimulated numerous studies and discussions about its possible impacts on water resources. Climate scenarios generated by climate models at spatial resolutions ranging from about 50 km to 400 km may not provide enough spatial specificity for use in impact assessment. In Parts I and II of this paper, the spatial specificity issue is addressed by examining what information on mesoscale and small-scale spatial features can be gained by using a regional climate model with a subgrid parameterization of orographic precipitation and land surface cover, driven by a general circulation model. Numerical experiments have been performed to simulate the present-day climatology and the climate conditions corresponding to a doubling of atmospheric CO2 concentration. This paper describes and contrasts the large-scale and mesoscale features of the greenhouse warming climate signals simulated by the general circulation model and regional climate model over the Pacific Northwest.

Results indicate that changes in the large-scale circulation exhibit strong seasonal variability. There is an average warming of about 2°C, and precipitation generally increases over the Pacific Northwest and decreases over California. The precipitation signal over the Pacific Northwest is only statistically significant during spring, when both the change in the large-scale circulation and increase in water vapor enhance the moisture convergence toward the north Pacific coast. The combined effects of surface temperature and precipitation changes are such that snow cover is reduced by up to 50% on average, causing large changes in the seasonal runoff. This paper also describes the high spatial resolution (1.5 km) climate signals simulated by the regional climate model. Reductions in snow cover of 50%–90% are found in areas near the snow line of the control simulation. Analyses of the variations of the climate signals with surface elevation ranging from sea level to 4000 m over two mountain ranges in the Pacific Northwest show that because of changes in the alitude of the freezing level, strong elevation dependency is found in the surface temperature, rainfall, snowfall, snow cover, and runoff signals.

Corresponding author address: Dr. L. Ruby Leung, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, P.O. Box 999, Richland, WA 99352.

Email: ruby.leung@pnl.gov

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