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Consensus on Twenty-First-Century Rainfall Projections in Climate Models More Widespread than Previously Thought

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  • 1 Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research, Bureau of Meteorology, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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Abstract

Under global warming, increases in precipitation are expected at high latitudes and near major tropical convergence zones in some seasons, while decreases are expected in many subtropical and midlatitude areas in between. In many other areas there is no consensus among models on the sign of the projected change. This is often assumed to indicate that precipitation projections in these regions are highly uncertain.

Here, twenty-first century precipitation projections under the Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES) A1B scenario using 24 World Climate Research Programme (WCRP)/Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 3 (CMIP3) climate models are examined. In areas with no consensus on the sign of projected change there are extensive subregions where the projected change is “very likely” (i.e., probability > 0.90) to be small (relative to, e.g., the size of interannual variability during the late twentieth century) or zero. The statistical significance of and interrelationships between methods used to identify model consensus on projected change in the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report are examined, and the impact of interdependency among model projections on statistical significance is investigated. Interdependency among projections is shown to be much weaker than interdependency among simulations of climatology. The results show that there is more widespread consistency among the model projections than one might infer from the 2007 IPCC Fourth Assessment report. This discovery highlights the broader need to identify regions, variables, and phenomena that are expected to be little affected by anthropogenic climate change and to communicate this information to the wider community. This is especially important for projections of climate for the next 1–3 decades.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Scott B. Power, Bureau of Meteorology, CAWCR, GPO Box 1289, Melbourne, VIC, Australia. E-mail: s.power@bom.gov.au

Abstract

Under global warming, increases in precipitation are expected at high latitudes and near major tropical convergence zones in some seasons, while decreases are expected in many subtropical and midlatitude areas in between. In many other areas there is no consensus among models on the sign of the projected change. This is often assumed to indicate that precipitation projections in these regions are highly uncertain.

Here, twenty-first century precipitation projections under the Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES) A1B scenario using 24 World Climate Research Programme (WCRP)/Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 3 (CMIP3) climate models are examined. In areas with no consensus on the sign of projected change there are extensive subregions where the projected change is “very likely” (i.e., probability > 0.90) to be small (relative to, e.g., the size of interannual variability during the late twentieth century) or zero. The statistical significance of and interrelationships between methods used to identify model consensus on projected change in the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report are examined, and the impact of interdependency among model projections on statistical significance is investigated. Interdependency among projections is shown to be much weaker than interdependency among simulations of climatology. The results show that there is more widespread consistency among the model projections than one might infer from the 2007 IPCC Fourth Assessment report. This discovery highlights the broader need to identify regions, variables, and phenomena that are expected to be little affected by anthropogenic climate change and to communicate this information to the wider community. This is especially important for projections of climate for the next 1–3 decades.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Scott B. Power, Bureau of Meteorology, CAWCR, GPO Box 1289, Melbourne, VIC, Australia. E-mail: s.power@bom.gov.au
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