Dynamical Downscaling over the Great Lakes Basin of North America Using the WRF Regional Climate Model: The Impact of the Great Lakes System on Regional Greenhouse Warming

Jonathan Gula Department of Physics, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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W. Richard Peltier Department of Physics, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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Abstract

The Weather Research and Forecasting model (WRF) is employed to dynamically downscale global warming projections produced using the Community Climate System Model (CCSM). The analyses are focused on the Great Lakes Basin of North America and the climate change projections extend from the instrumental period (1979–2001) to midcentury (2050–60) at a spatial resolution of 10 km. Because WRF does not currently include a sufficiently realistic lake component, simulations are performed using lake water temperature provided by D.V. Mironov’s freshwater lake model “FLake” forced by atmospheric fields from the global simulations. Results for the instrumental era are first compared with observations to evaluate the ability of the lake model to provide accurate lake water temperature and ice cover and to analyze the skill of the regional model. It is demonstrated that the regional model, with its finer resolution and more comprehensive physics, provides significantly improved results compared to those obtained from the global model. It much more accurately captures the details of the annual cycle and spatial pattern of precipitation. In particular, much more realistic lake-induced precipitation and snowfall patterns downwind of the lakes are predicted. The midcentury projection is analyzed to determine the impact of downscaling on regional climate changes. The emphasis in this final phase of the analysis is on the impact of climate change on winter snowfall in the lee of the lakes. It is found that future changes in lake surface temperature and ice cover under warmer conditions may locally increase snowfall as a result of increased evaporation and the enhanced lake effect.

Corresponding author address: Jonathan Gula, Department of Physics, University of Toronto, 60 St George St., Toronto ON M5S 1A7, Canada. E-mail: gula@atmosp.physics.utoronto.ca

Abstract

The Weather Research and Forecasting model (WRF) is employed to dynamically downscale global warming projections produced using the Community Climate System Model (CCSM). The analyses are focused on the Great Lakes Basin of North America and the climate change projections extend from the instrumental period (1979–2001) to midcentury (2050–60) at a spatial resolution of 10 km. Because WRF does not currently include a sufficiently realistic lake component, simulations are performed using lake water temperature provided by D.V. Mironov’s freshwater lake model “FLake” forced by atmospheric fields from the global simulations. Results for the instrumental era are first compared with observations to evaluate the ability of the lake model to provide accurate lake water temperature and ice cover and to analyze the skill of the regional model. It is demonstrated that the regional model, with its finer resolution and more comprehensive physics, provides significantly improved results compared to those obtained from the global model. It much more accurately captures the details of the annual cycle and spatial pattern of precipitation. In particular, much more realistic lake-induced precipitation and snowfall patterns downwind of the lakes are predicted. The midcentury projection is analyzed to determine the impact of downscaling on regional climate changes. The emphasis in this final phase of the analysis is on the impact of climate change on winter snowfall in the lee of the lakes. It is found that future changes in lake surface temperature and ice cover under warmer conditions may locally increase snowfall as a result of increased evaporation and the enhanced lake effect.

Corresponding author address: Jonathan Gula, Department of Physics, University of Toronto, 60 St George St., Toronto ON M5S 1A7, Canada. E-mail: gula@atmosp.physics.utoronto.ca
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