Surface Air Temperature Changes over the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries in China Simulated by 20 CMIP5 Models

Liang Chen Department of Geography, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas

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Oliver W. Frauenfeld Department of Geography, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas

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Abstract

Historical temperature variability over China during the twentieth century and projected changes under three emission scenarios for the twenty-first century are evaluated on the basis of a multimodel ensemble of 20 GCMs from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) and two observational datasets. Changes relative to phase 3 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP3) are assessed, and the performance of individual GCMs is also quantified. Compared with observations, GCMs have substantial cold biases over the Tibetan Plateau, especially in the cold season. The timing and location of these biases also correspond to the greatest disagreement among the individual models, indicating GCMs’ limitations in reproducing climatic features in this complex terrain. The CMIP5 multimodel ensemble shows better agreement with observations than CMIP3 in terms of the temperature biases. Both CMIP3 and CMIP5 capture the climatic warming over the twentieth century. However, the magnitude of the annual mean temperature trends is underestimated. There is also limited agreement in the spatial and seasonal patterns of temperature trends over China. Based on six statistical measures, four individual models—the Max Planck Institute Earth System Model, low resolution (MPI-ESM-LR), Second Generation Canadian Earth System Model (CanESM2), Model for Interdisciplinary Research on Climate, Earth System Model (MIROC-ESM), and Community Climate System Model, version 4 (CCSM4)—best represent surface air temperature variability over China. The future temperature projections indicate that the representative concentration pathway (RCP) 8.5 and RCP 4.5 scenarios exhibit a gradual increase in annual temperature during the twenty-first century at a rate of 0.60° and 0.27°C (10 yr)−1, respectively. As the lowest-emission mitigation scenario, RCP 2.6 projects the lowest rate of temperature increase [0.10°C (10 yr)−1]. By the end of the twenty-first century, temperature is projected to increase by 1.7°–5.7°C, with larger warming over northern China and the Tibetan Plateau.

Corresponding author address: Liang Chen, Department of Geography, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843. E-mail: chenliang08@neo.tamu.edu

Abstract

Historical temperature variability over China during the twentieth century and projected changes under three emission scenarios for the twenty-first century are evaluated on the basis of a multimodel ensemble of 20 GCMs from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) and two observational datasets. Changes relative to phase 3 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP3) are assessed, and the performance of individual GCMs is also quantified. Compared with observations, GCMs have substantial cold biases over the Tibetan Plateau, especially in the cold season. The timing and location of these biases also correspond to the greatest disagreement among the individual models, indicating GCMs’ limitations in reproducing climatic features in this complex terrain. The CMIP5 multimodel ensemble shows better agreement with observations than CMIP3 in terms of the temperature biases. Both CMIP3 and CMIP5 capture the climatic warming over the twentieth century. However, the magnitude of the annual mean temperature trends is underestimated. There is also limited agreement in the spatial and seasonal patterns of temperature trends over China. Based on six statistical measures, four individual models—the Max Planck Institute Earth System Model, low resolution (MPI-ESM-LR), Second Generation Canadian Earth System Model (CanESM2), Model for Interdisciplinary Research on Climate, Earth System Model (MIROC-ESM), and Community Climate System Model, version 4 (CCSM4)—best represent surface air temperature variability over China. The future temperature projections indicate that the representative concentration pathway (RCP) 8.5 and RCP 4.5 scenarios exhibit a gradual increase in annual temperature during the twenty-first century at a rate of 0.60° and 0.27°C (10 yr)−1, respectively. As the lowest-emission mitigation scenario, RCP 2.6 projects the lowest rate of temperature increase [0.10°C (10 yr)−1]. By the end of the twenty-first century, temperature is projected to increase by 1.7°–5.7°C, with larger warming over northern China and the Tibetan Plateau.

Corresponding author address: Liang Chen, Department of Geography, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843. E-mail: chenliang08@neo.tamu.edu
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