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Seasonally Dependent Future Changes in the U.S. Midwest Hydroclimate and Extremes

Wenyu ZhouaPacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, Washington

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L. Ruby LeungaPacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, Washington

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Jian LuaPacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, Washington

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Abstract

This study investigates the responses of the hydroclimate and extremes in the U.S. Midwest to global warming, based on ensemble projections of phase 6 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project and the multimodel initial-condition large-ensemble simulations. The precipitation response features a seasonally dependent change with increased precipitation in April–May but reduced precipitation in July–August. The late-spring wetting is attributed to the enhanced low-level moisture-transporting southerlies, which are induced by regional sea level pressure anomalies linked to the poleward shift of the North American westerly jet (NAWJ). The late-summer drying is attributed to the weakened storm track, which is also linked to the poleward NAWJ shift. The seasonally dependent future changes of the Midwest precipitation are analogous to its climatological seasonal progression, which increases over late spring as the NAWJ approaches the Midwest and decreases over late summer as the NAWJ migrates away. In response to the mean precipitation changes, extremely wet late springs (April–May precipitation above the 99th percentile of the historical period) and extremely dry late summers (below the 1st percentile) will occur much more frequently, implying increased late-spring floods and late-summer droughts. Future warming in the Midwest is amplified in late summer due to the reduced precipitation. With amplified background warming and increased occurrence, future late-summer droughts will be more devastating. Our results highlight that, under a time-invariant poleward jet shift, opposite precipitation changes arise before and after the peak rainy month, leading to substantial increases in the subseasonal extremes. The severity of such climate impacts is obscured in projections of the rainy-season mean.

© 2021 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Wenyu Zhou, wenyu.zhou@pnnl.gov

Abstract

This study investigates the responses of the hydroclimate and extremes in the U.S. Midwest to global warming, based on ensemble projections of phase 6 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project and the multimodel initial-condition large-ensemble simulations. The precipitation response features a seasonally dependent change with increased precipitation in April–May but reduced precipitation in July–August. The late-spring wetting is attributed to the enhanced low-level moisture-transporting southerlies, which are induced by regional sea level pressure anomalies linked to the poleward shift of the North American westerly jet (NAWJ). The late-summer drying is attributed to the weakened storm track, which is also linked to the poleward NAWJ shift. The seasonally dependent future changes of the Midwest precipitation are analogous to its climatological seasonal progression, which increases over late spring as the NAWJ approaches the Midwest and decreases over late summer as the NAWJ migrates away. In response to the mean precipitation changes, extremely wet late springs (April–May precipitation above the 99th percentile of the historical period) and extremely dry late summers (below the 1st percentile) will occur much more frequently, implying increased late-spring floods and late-summer droughts. Future warming in the Midwest is amplified in late summer due to the reduced precipitation. With amplified background warming and increased occurrence, future late-summer droughts will be more devastating. Our results highlight that, under a time-invariant poleward jet shift, opposite precipitation changes arise before and after the peak rainy month, leading to substantial increases in the subseasonal extremes. The severity of such climate impacts is obscured in projections of the rainy-season mean.

© 2021 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Wenyu Zhou, wenyu.zhou@pnnl.gov
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