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Melissa S. Bukovsky
and
David J. Karoly

Abstract

In this study, the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model is employed as a nested regional climate model to dynamically downscale output from the National Center for Atmospheric Research’s (NCAR’s) Community Climate System Model (CCSM) version 3 and the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP)–NCAR global reanalysis (NNRP). The latter is used for verification of late-twentieth-century climate simulations from the WRF.

This analysis finds that the WRF is able to produce precipitation that is more realistic than that from its driving systems (the CCSM and NNRP). It also diagnoses potential issues with and differences between all of the simulations completed. Specifically, the magnitude of heavy 6-h average precipitation events, the frequency distribution, and the diurnal cycle of precipitation over the central United States are greatly improved. Projections from the WRF for late-twenty-first-century precipitation show decreases in average May–August (MJJA) precipitation, but increases in the intensity of both heavy precipitation events and rain in general when it does fall. A decrease in the number of 6-h periods with rainfall accounts for the overall decrease in average precipitation. The WRF also shows an increase in the frequency of very heavy to extreme 6-h average events, but a decrease in the frequency of all events lighter than those over the central United States. Overall, projections from this study suggest an increase in the frequency of both floods and droughts during the warm season in the central United States.

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Mitchell T. Black
and
David J. Karoly
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Sophie C. Lewis
and
David J. Karoly

Abstract

Diurnal temperature range (DTR) is a useful index of climatic change in addition to mean temperature changes. Observational records indicate that DTR has decreased over the last 50 yr because of differential changes in minimum and maximum temperatures. However, modeled changes in DTR in previous climate model simulations of this period are smaller than those observed, primarily because of an overestimate of changes in maximum temperatures. This present study examines DTR trends using the latest generation of global climate models participating in phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) and utilizes the novel CMIP5 detection and attribution experimental design of variously forced historical simulations (natural-only, greenhouse gas–only, and all anthropogenic and natural forcings). Comparison of observed and modeled changes in DTR over the period of 1951–2005 again reveals that global DTR trends are lower in model simulations than observed across the 27-member multimodel ensemble analyzed here. Modeled DTR trends are similar for both experiments incorporating all forcings and for the historical experiment with greenhouse gases only, while no DTR trend is discernible in the naturally forced historical experiment. The persistent underestimate of DTR changes in this latest multimodel evaluation appears to be related to ubiquitous model deficiencies in cloud cover and land surface processes that impact the accurate simulation of regional minimum or maximum temperatures changes observed during this period. Different model processes are likely responsible for subdued simulated DTR trends over the various analyzed regions.

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Ailie J. E. Gallant
and
David J. Karoly

Abstract

Changes in the area of Australia experiencing concurrent temperature and rainfall extremes are investigated through the use of two combined indices. The indices describe variations between the fraction of land area experiencing extreme cold and dry or hot and wet conditions. There is a high level of agreement between the variations and trends of the indices from 1957 to 2008 when computed using (i) a spatially complete gridded dataset without rigorous quality control checks and (ii) spatially incomplete high-quality station datasets with rigorous quality control checks. Australian extremes are examined starting from 1911, which is the first time a broad-scale assessment of Australian temperature extremes has been performed prior to 1957. Over the whole country, the results show an increase in the extent of hot and wet extremes and a decrease in the extent of cold and dry extremes annually and during all seasons from 1911 to 2008 at a rate of between 1% and 2% decade−1. These trends mostly stem from changes in tropical regions during summer and spring. There are relationships between the extent of extreme maximum temperatures, precipitation, and soil moisture on interannual and decadal time scales that are similar to the relationships exhibited by variations of the means. However, the trends from 1911 to 2008 and from 1957 to 2008 are not consistent with these relationships, providing evidence that the processes causing the interannual variations and those causing the longer-term trends are different.

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Jonty D. Hall
,
Adrian J. Matthews
, and
David J. Karoly

Abstract

The observed relationship between tropical cyclone activity in the Australian region and the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) has been examined using 20 yr of outgoing longwave radiation, NCEP–NCAR reanalysis, and best track tropical cyclone data. The MJO strongly modulates the climatological pattern of cyclogenesis in the Australian region, where significantly more (fewer) cyclones form in the active (inactive) phase of the MJO. This modulation is more pronounced to the northwest of Australia. The relationship between tropical cyclone activity and the MJO was strengthened during El Niño periods. Variations of the large-scale dynamical conditions necessary for cyclogenesis were explored, and it was found that MJO-induced perturbations of these parameters correspond with the observed variation in cyclone activity. In particular, 850-hPa relative vorticity anomalies attributable to the MJO were found to be an excellent diagnostic of the changes in the large-scale cyclogenesis patterns.

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Ailie J. E. Gallant
,
David J. Karoly
, and
Karin L. Gleason

Abstract

The utility of a combined modified climate extremes index (mCEI) is presented for monitoring coherent trends in multiple types of climate extremes across large regions. Its usefulness lies in its ability to distill complex spatiotemporal fields into a simple, flexible nonparametric index.

Two versions of the mCEI are computed that incorporate changes in several annual- or daily-scale temperature-related and moisture-related extremes. Applying data from the contiguous United States, Europe, and Australia detects consistent and statistically significant increases in the spatial prevalence of climate extremes from 1950 to 2012. All three continental-scale regions show increasingly widespread warm annual- and daily-scale minimum and maximum temperature extremes, a decreasing spatial extent of cool annual- and daily-scale minimum and maximum temperature extremes, and increasing areas where the proportion of annual total precipitation falls on heavy-rain days. There were no statistically significant trends toward more widespread, annual-scale drought or moisture surplus in any region.

The dependence of annual extremes on the frequency of daily-scale extremes is highlighted by the strong covariations between annual- and daily-scale extremes in all regions. By the nature of construction of the combined indices, the differences in the trends of the mCEI and daily-scale mCEI (dmCEI) suggest that extremes in more areas are changing primarily because of a shift of temperature and daily rainfall distributions toward warm extremes and heavy-rainfall extremes.

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John T. Allen
,
David J. Karoly
, and
Kevin J. Walsh

Abstract

The influence of a warming climate on the occurrence of severe thunderstorms over Australia is, as yet, poorly understood. Based on methods used in the development of a climatology of observed severe thunderstorm environments over the continent, two climate models [Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation Mark, version 3.6 (CSIRO Mk3.6) and the Cubic-Conformal Atmospheric Model (CCAM)] have been used to produce simulated climatologies of ingredients and environments favorable to severe thunderstorms for the late twentieth century (1980–2000). A novel evaluation of these model climatologies against data from both the ECMWF Interim Re-Analysis (ERA-Interim) and reports of severe thunderstorms from observers is used to analyze the capability of the models to represent convective environments in the current climate. This evaluation examines the representation of thunderstorm-favorable environments in terms of their frequency, seasonal cycle, and spatial distribution, while presenting a framework for future evaluations of climate model convective parameters. Both models showed the capability to explain at least 75% of the spatial variance in both vertical wind shear and convective available potential energy (CAPE). CSIRO Mk3.6 struggled to either represent the diurnal cycle over a large portion of the continent or resolve the annual cycle, while in contrast CCAM showed a tendency to underestimate CAPE and 0–6-km bulk magnitude vertical wind shear (S06). While spatial resolution likely contributes to rendering of features such as coastal moisture and significant topography, the distribution of severe thunderstorm environments is found to have greater sensitivity to model biases. This highlights the need for a consistent approach to evaluating convective parameters and severe thunderstorm environments in present-day climate: an example of which is presented here.

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John T. Allen
,
David J. Karoly
, and
Kevin J. Walsh

Abstract

The influence of a warming climate on the occurrence of severe thunderstorm environments in Australia was explored using two global climate models: Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation Mark, version 3.6 (CSIRO Mk3.6), and the Cubic-Conformal Atmospheric Model (CCAM). These models have previously been evaluated and found to be capable of reproducing a useful climatology for the twentieth-century period (1980–2000). Analyzing the changes between the historical period and high warming climate scenarios for the period 2079–99 has allowed estimation of the potential convective future for the continent. Based on these simulations, significant increases to the frequency of severe thunderstorm environments will likely occur for northern and eastern Australia in a warmed climate. This change is a response to increasing convective available potential energy from higher continental moisture, particularly in proximity to warm sea surface temperatures. Despite decreases to the frequency of environments with high vertical wind shear, it appears unlikely that this will offset increases to thermodynamic energy. The change is most pronounced during the peak of the convective season, increasing its length and the frequency of severe thunderstorm environments therein, particularly over the eastern parts of the continent. The implications of this potential increase are significant, with the overall frequency of potential severe thunderstorm days per year likely to rise over the major population centers of the east coast by 14% for Brisbane, 22% for Melbourne, and 30% for Sydney. The limitations of this approach are then discussed in the context of ways to increase the confidence of predictions of future severe convection.

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Diandong Ren
,
David J. Karoly
, and
Lance M. Leslie

Abstract

The temperate glaciers in the greater Himalayas (GH) and the neighboring region contribute to the freshwater supply for almost one-half of the people on earth. Under global warming conditions, the GH glaciers may melt more rapidly than high-latitude glaciers, owing to the coincidence of the accumulation and ablation seasons in summer. Based on a first-order energy balance approach for glacier thermodynamics, the possible imposed additional melting rate was estimated from three climate simulations using the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory Global Coupled Climate Model version 2.1 (GFDL-CM2.1), the Model for Interdisciplinary Research on Climate 3.2, high-resolution version (MIROC3.2-hires), and the Met Office’s Third Hadley Centre Coupled Ocean–Atmosphere General Circulation Model (HadCM3). The simulations were carried out under the Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES) A1B scenario. For the 30-yr period of 2001–30, all three CGCMs indicate that the glacial regions most sensitive to regional warming are the Tianshan–Altai Mountains to the north and Hengduan Mountains to the south. A map of potential melting was produced and was used to calculate the glacier-melting speed, yielding an additional spatially averaged glacier depth reduction of approximately 2 m for the 2001–30 period for those areas located below 4000 m. Averaged over the entire GH region, the melting rate is accelerating at about 5 mm yr−2. The general circulation over the GH region was found to have clear multidecadal variability, with the 30-yr period of 2001–30 likely to be wetter than the previous 30-yr period of 1971–2000. Considering the possible trend in precipitation from snow to rain, the actual melting rates of the GH glaciers may even be larger than those obtained in this research.

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Greg C. Tyrrell
,
David J. Karoly
, and
John L. McBride

Abstract

Data from the Intensive Observation Period of the Tropical Ocean Global Atmosphere Coupled Ocean-Atmosphere Response Experiment (November 1992–February 1993) have been used to investigate the links between intraseasonal variations in tropical convection and those in forcing of upper-tropospheric Rossby waves in the extratropics. The primary databases are Geostationary Meteorological Satellite imagery and tropical wind analyses from the Bureau of Meteorology, Australia. A number of 5-day periods showing convection in different locations were chosen. For each period, mean fields of divergence, cloud-top temperature, and upper-tropospheric Rossby wave source are presented. Vorticity budgets are used to demonstrate the processes responsible for the Rossby wave source patterns. The approach follows earlier studies of links between interannual variations of tropical convection associated with the Southern Oscillation and variations of the extratropical circulation.

It is shown that the regions of tropical convection correspond to longitudinally localized Hadley cells. In the subtropics, at the higher-latitude end of each cell, there is a Rossby wave source dipole with anticyclonic and cyclonic forcing. The anticyclonic forcing of Rossby waves is associated with advection of vorticity by the divergent outflow, while the cyclonic forcing is due to the region of convergence immediately above the down-ward branch of the local Hadley cell. Hence, the authors provide a dynamical basis for tropical-midlatitude interactions associated with intraseasonal variations of tropical convection.

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