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Eric D. Maloney, Suzana J. Camargo, Edmund Chang, Brian Colle, Rong Fu, Kerrie L. Geil, Qi Hu, Xianan Jiang, Nathaniel Johnson, Kristopher B. Karnauskas, James Kinter, Benjamin Kirtman, Sanjiv Kumar, Baird Langenbrunner, Kelly Lombardo, Lindsey N. Long, Annarita Mariotti, Joyce E. Meyerson, Kingtse C. Mo, J. David Neelin, Zaitao Pan, Richard Seager, Yolande Serra, Anji Seth, Justin Sheffield, Julienne Stroeve, Jeanne Thibeault, Shang-Ping Xie, Chunzai Wang, Bruce Wyman, and Ming Zhao

Abstract

In part III of a three-part study on North American climate in phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) models, the authors examine projections of twenty-first-century climate in the representative concentration pathway 8.5 (RCP8.5) emission experiments. This paper summarizes and synthesizes results from several coordinated studies by the authors. Aspects of North American climate change that are examined include changes in continental-scale temperature and the hydrologic cycle, extremes events, and storm tracks, as well as regional manifestations of these climate variables. The authors also examine changes in the eastern North Pacific and North Atlantic tropical cyclone activity and North American intraseasonal to decadal variability, including changes in teleconnections to other regions of the globe. Projected changes are generally consistent with those previously published for CMIP3, although CMIP5 model projections differ importantly from those of CMIP3 in some aspects, including CMIP5 model agreement on increased central California precipitation. The paper also highlights uncertainties and limitations based on current results as priorities for further research. Although many projected changes in North American climate are consistent across CMIP5 models, substantial intermodel disagreement exists in other aspects. Areas of disagreement include projections of changes in snow water equivalent on a regional basis, summer Arctic sea ice extent, the magnitude and sign of regional precipitation changes, extreme heat events across the northern United States, and Atlantic and east Pacific tropical cyclone activity.

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Jeanne M. Thibeault and Anji Seth

Abstract

Future projections of northeastern North American warm-season precipitation [June–August (JJA)] indicate substantial uncertainty. Atmospheric processes important to the northeast-region JJA precipitation are identified and a first evaluation of the ability of five phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) models to simulate these processes is performed. In this case study, the authors develop a set of process-based analyses forming a framework for evaluating model credibility in the northeast region. This framework includes evaluation of models’ ability to simulate observed spatial patterns and amounts of mean precipitation; dynamical atmospheric circulation features, moisture transport, and moisture divergence important to interannual precipitation variability; long-term trends; and SST patterns important to northeast-region summer precipitation.Wet summers in the northeast region are associated with 1) negative 500-hPa geopotential height anomalies centered near the Great Lakes; 2) positive 500-hPa geopotential height anomalies over the western Atlantic east of the Mid-Atlantic states; 3) northeastward moisture flow and increased moisture convergence along the Eastern Seaboard; 4) increased moisture divergence off the U.S. Southeast coast; and 5) positive sea level pressure (SLP) anomalies in the western Atlantic, possibly related to cold tropical Atlantic SSTs and southwest ridging of the North Atlantic anticyclone. Models are generally able to simulate these features but vary compared to observations. Models capture regional moisture transport and convergence anomalies associated with wet summers reasonably well, despite errors in simulating the climatology. Identifying sources of intermodel differences in future projections is important, determining processes relevant for model credibility. In particular, changes in moisture divergence control the sign of northeast-region summer precipitation changes, making it a critical component of process-level analyses for the region.

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Edmund K. M. Chang

Abstract

Projections of storm-track changes over the continental United States and southern Canada made by 23 models from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) have been compared to changes projected by 11 models from phase 3 of CMIP (CMIP3). Overall, under representative concentration pathway 8.5 (RCP8.5) forcing, CMIP5 models project much more significant decreases in North American storm-track activity than CMIP3 models under the Special Report on Emission Scenarios (SRES) A2 scenario, with the largest decrease in summer and the smallest decrease in spring. The decrease is found both in temporal variance and cyclone statistics, with the frequency of strong cyclones projected to decrease by 15.9%, 6.6%, 32.6%, and 16.9% for winter, spring, summer, and fall, respectively. There is a strong consensus among the 23 models regarding the sign of the projected change, with less than 20% of the models projecting changes in the opposite sign in any of the storm-track parameters examined. Nevertheless, there are also significant model-to-model differences in the magnitude of the projected changes.

Projected changes in mean flow baroclinicity have also been examined. Model-to-model differences in the projected storm-track change are found to correlate significantly with model-to-model differences in the projected change in a locally defined mean available potential energy (MAPE) across the ensemble of 34 CMIP5 and CMIP3 models, suggesting that the differences in the projected change in local MAPE can partly account for not only the model-to-model differences but also the differences between CMIP5 and CMIP3 projections. Examination of projected precipitation change suggests that models projecting larger decrease in North American storm-track activity also project a farther northward intrusion of the decrease in subtropical precipitation.

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Suzana J. Camargo

Abstract

Tropical cyclone (TC) activity is analyzed in 14 models from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5). The global TC activity in the historical runs is compared with observations. The simulation of TC activity in the CMIP5 models is not as good as in higher-resolution simulations. The CMIP5 global TC frequency is much lower than observed, and there is significant deficiency in the geographical patterns of TC tracks and formation. Although all of the models underestimate the global frequency of TCs, the models present a wide range of global TC frequency. The models with the highest horizontal resolution have the highest level of global TC activity, though resolution is not the only factor that determines model TC activity. A cold SST bias could potentially contribute to the low number of TCs in the models. The models show no consensus regarding the difference of TC activity in two warming scenarios [representative concentration pathway 4.5 (RCP4.5) and RCP8.5] and the historical simulation. The author examined in more detail North Atlantic and eastern North Pacific TC activity in a subset of models and found no robust changes across models in TC frequency. Therefore, there is no robust signal across the CMIP5 models in global and regional TC changes in activity for future scenarios. The future changes in various large-scale environmental fields associated with TC activity were also examined globally: genesis potential index, potential intensity, vertical wind shear, and sea level pressure. The multimodel mean changes of these variables in the CMIP5 models are consistent with the changes obtained in the CMIP3 models.

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Justin Sheffield, Andrew P. Barrett, Brian Colle, D. Nelun Fernando, Rong Fu, Kerrie L. Geil, Qi Hu, Jim Kinter, Sanjiv Kumar, Baird Langenbrunner, Kelly Lombardo, Lindsey N. Long, Eric Maloney, Annarita Mariotti, Joyce E. Meyerson, Kingtse C. Mo, J. David Neelin, Sumant Nigam, Zaitao Pan, Tong Ren, Alfredo Ruiz-Barradas, Yolande L. Serra, Anji Seth, Jeanne M. Thibeault, Julienne C. Stroeve, Ze Yang, and Lei Yin

Abstract

This is the first part of a three-part paper on North American climate in phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) that evaluates the historical simulations of continental and regional climatology with a focus on a core set of 17 models. The authors evaluate the models for a set of basic surface climate and hydrological variables and their extremes for the continent. This is supplemented by evaluations for selected regional climate processes relevant to North American climate, including cool season western Atlantic cyclones, the North American monsoon, the U.S. Great Plains low-level jet, and Arctic sea ice. In general, the multimodel ensemble mean represents the observed spatial patterns of basic climate and hydrological variables but with large variability across models and regions in the magnitude and sign of errors. No single model stands out as being particularly better or worse across all analyses, although some models consistently outperform the others for certain variables across most regions and seasons and higher-resolution models tend to perform better for regional processes. The CMIP5 multimodel ensemble shows a slight improvement relative to CMIP3 models in representing basic climate variables, in terms of the mean and spread, although performance has decreased for some models. Improvements in CMIP5 model performance are noticeable for some regional climate processes analyzed, such as the timing of the North American monsoon. The results of this paper have implications for the robustness of future projections of climate and its associated impacts, which are examined in the third part of the paper.

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Justin Sheffield, Suzana J. Camargo, Rong Fu, Qi Hu, Xianan Jiang, Nathaniel Johnson, Kristopher B. Karnauskas, Seon Tae Kim, Jim Kinter, Sanjiv Kumar, Baird Langenbrunner, Eric Maloney, Annarita Mariotti, Joyce E. Meyerson, J. David Neelin, Sumant Nigam, Zaitao Pan, Alfredo Ruiz-Barradas, Richard Seager, Yolande L. Serra, De-Zheng Sun, Chunzai Wang, Shang-Ping Xie, Jin-Yi Yu, Tao Zhang, and Ming Zhao

Abstract

This is the second part of a three-part paper on North American climate in phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) that evaluates the twentieth-century simulations of intraseasonal to multidecadal variability and teleconnections with North American climate. Overall, the multimodel ensemble does reasonably well at reproducing observed variability in several aspects, but it does less well at capturing observed teleconnections, with implications for future projections examined in part three of this paper. In terms of intraseasonal variability, almost half of the models examined can reproduce observed variability in the eastern Pacific and most models capture the midsummer drought over Central America. The multimodel mean replicates the density of traveling tropical synoptic-scale disturbances but with large spread among the models. On the other hand, the coarse resolution of the models means that tropical cyclone frequencies are underpredicted in the Atlantic and eastern North Pacific. The frequency and mean amplitude of ENSO are generally well reproduced, although teleconnections with North American climate are widely varying among models and only a few models can reproduce the east and central Pacific types of ENSO and connections with U.S. winter temperatures. The models capture the spatial pattern of Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO) variability and its influence on continental temperature and West Coast precipitation but less well for the wintertime precipitation. The spatial representation of the Atlantic multidecadal oscillation (AMO) is reasonable, but the magnitude of SST anomalies and teleconnections are poorly reproduced. Multidecadal trends such as the warming hole over the central–southeastern United States and precipitation increases are not replicated by the models, suggesting that observed changes are linked to natural variability.

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Kerrie L. Geil, Yolande L. Serra, and Xubin Zeng

Abstract

Precipitation, geopotential height, and wind fields from 21 models from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) are examined to determine how well this generation of general circulation models represents the North American monsoon system (NAMS). Results show no improvement since CMIP3 in the magnitude (root-mean-square error and bias) of the mean annual cycle of monthly precipitation over a core monsoon domain, but improvement in the phasing of the seasonal cycle in precipitation is notable. Monsoon onset is early for most models but is clearly visible in daily climatological precipitation, whereas monsoon retreat is highly variable and unclear in daily climatological precipitation. Models that best capture large-scale circulation patterns at a low level usually have realistic representations of the NAMS, but even the best models poorly represent monsoon retreat. Difficulty in reproducing monsoon retreat results from an inaccurate representation of gradients in low-level geopotential height across the larger region, which causes an unrealistic flux of low-level moisture from the tropics into the NAMS region that extends well into the postmonsoon season. Composites of the models with the best and worst representations of the NAMS indicate that adequate representation of the monsoon during the early to midseason can be achieved even with a large-scale circulation pattern bias, as long as the bias is spatially consistent over the larger region influencing monsoon development; in other words, as with monsoon retreat, it is the inaccuracy of the spatial gradients in geopotential height across the larger region that prevents some models from realistic representation of the early and midseason monsoon system.

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Anji Seth, Sara A. Rauscher, Michela Biasutti, Alessandra Giannini, Suzana J. Camargo, and Maisa Rojas

Abstract

Analyses of phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) experiments show that the global monsoon is expected to increase in area, precipitation, and intensity as the climate system responds to anthropogenic forcing. Concurrently, detailed analyses for several individual monsoons indicate a redistribution of rainfall from early to late in the rainy season. This analysis examines CMIP5 projected changes in the annual cycle of precipitation in monsoon regions, using a moist static energy framework to evaluate competing mechanisms identified to be important in precipitation changes over land. In the presence of sufficient surface moisture, the local response to the increase in downwelling energy is characterized by increased evaporation, increased low-level moist static energy, and decreased stability with consequent increases in precipitation. A remote mechanism begins with warmer oceans and operates on land regions via a warmer tropical troposphere, increased stability, and decreased precipitation. The remote mechanism controls the projected changes during winter, and the local mechanism controls the switch to increased precipitation during summer in most monsoon regions. During the early summer transition, regions where boundary layer moisture availability is reduced owing to decreases in evaporation and moisture convergence experience an enhanced convective barrier. Regions characterized by adequate evaporation and moisture convergence do not experience reductions in early summer precipitation.

This enhanced convective barrier leads to a redistribution of rainfall from early to late summer, and is robust in the American and African monsoons but muddled in Asia. As described here, viewing monsoons from their inherent ties to the annual cycle could help to fingerprint changes as they evolve.

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Paul A. Dirmeyer, Yan Jin, Bohar Singh, and Xiaoqin Yan

Abstract

Long-term changes in land–atmosphere interactions during spring and summer are examined over North America. A suite of models from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project simulating preindustrial, historical, and severe future climate change scenarios are examined for changes in soil moisture, surface fluxes, atmospheric boundary layer characteristics, and metrics of land–atmosphere coupling.

Simulations of changes from preindustrial to modern conditions show warming brings stronger surface fluxes at high latitudes, while subtropical regions of North America respond with drier conditions. There is a clear anthropogenic aerosol response in midlatitudes that reduces surface radiation and heat fluxes, leading to shallower boundary layers and lower cloud base. Over the Great Plains, the signal does not reflect a purely radiatively forced response, showing evidence that the expansion of agriculture may have offset the aerosol impacts on the surface energy and water cycle.

Future changes show soils are projected to dry across North America, even though precipitation increases north of a line that retreats poleward from spring to summer. Latent heat flux also has a north–south dipole of change, increasing north and decreasing south of a line that also moves northward with the changing season. Metrics of land–atmosphere feedback increase over most of the continent but are strongest where latent heat flux increases in the same location and season where precipitation decreases. Combined with broadly elevated cloud bases and deeper boundary layers, land–atmosphere interactions are projected to become more important in the future with possible consequences for seasonal climate prediction.

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David E. Rupp, Philip W. Mote, Nathaniel L. Bindoff, Peter A. Stott, and David A. Robinson

Abstract

Significant declines in spring Northern Hemisphere (NH) snow cover extent (SCE) have been observed over the last five decades. As one step toward understanding the causes of this decline, an optimal fingerprinting technique is used to look for consistency in the temporal pattern of spring NH SCE between observations and simulations from 15 global climate models (GCMs) that form part of phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project. The authors examined simulations from 15 GCMs that included both natural and anthropogenic forcing and simulations from 7 GCMs that included only natural forcing. The decline in observed NH SCE could be largely explained by the combined natural and anthropogenic forcing but not by natural forcing alone. However, the 15 GCMs, taken as a whole, underpredicted the combined forcing response by a factor of 2. How much of this underprediction was due to underrepresentation of the sensitivity to external forcing of the GCMs or to their underrepresentation of internal variability has yet to be determined.

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