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Sara A. Rauscher
,
Xiaoyan Jiang
,
Allison Steiner
,
A. Park Williams
,
D. Michael Cai
, and
Nathan G. McDowell

Abstract

Recent modeling studies of future vegetation change suggest the potential for large-scale forest die-off in the tropics. Taken together with observational evidence of increasing tree mortality in numerous ecosystem types, there is clearly a need for projections of vegetation change. To that end, the authors have performed an ensemble of climate–vegetation experiments with the National Science Foundation–DOE Community Atmosphere Model (CAM) coupled to the Community Land Model (CAM–CLM-CN) with its dynamic vegetation model enabled (CAM–CLM-CNDV). To overcome the limitations of using a single model, the authors employ the sea surface temperature (SST) warming patterns simulated by eight different models from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Program phase 3 (CMIP3) as boundary conditions. Since the SST warming pattern in part dictates how precipitation may change in the future, in this way a range of future vegetation–climate trajectories can be produced.

On an annual average basis, this study’s CAM–CLM-CN simulations do not produce as large a spread in projected precipitation as the original CMIP3 archive. These differences are due to the tendency of CAM–CLM-CN to increase tropical precipitation under a global warming scenario, although this response is modulated by the SST warming patterns imposed. However, the CAM–CLM-CN simulations reproduce the enhanced dry season in the tropics simulated by CMIP3. These simulations show longer fire seasons and increases in fractional area burned. In one ensemble member, extreme droughts over tropical South America lead to fires that remove vegetation cover in the eastern Amazon, suggesting that large-scale die-offs are an unlikely but still possible event.

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Kiranmayi Landu
,
L. Ruby Leung
,
Samson Hagos
,
V. Vinoj
,
Sara A. Rauscher
,
Todd Ringler
, and
Mark Taylor

Abstract

Aquaplanet simulations using the Community Atmosphere Model, version 4 (CAM4), with the Model for Prediction Across Scales–Atmosphere (MPAS-A) and High-Order Method Modeling Environment (HOMME) dynamical cores and using zonally symmetric sea surface temperature (SST) structure are studied to understand the dependence of the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) structure on resolution and dynamical core. While all resolutions in HOMME and the low-resolution MPAS-A simulations give a single equatorial peak in zonal mean precipitation, the high-resolution MPAS-A simulations give a double ITCZ with precipitation peaking around 2°–3° on either side of the equator. This study reveals that the structure of ITCZ is dependent on the feedbacks between convection and large-scale circulation. It is shown that the difference in specific humidity between HOMME and MPAS-A can lead to different latitudinal distributions of the convective available potential energy (CAPE) by influencing latent heat release by clouds and the upper-tropospheric temperature. With lower specific humidity, the high-resolution MPAS-A simulation has CAPE increasing away from the equator that enhances convection away from the equator and, through a positive feedback on the circulation, results in a double ITCZ structure. In addition, it is shown that the dominance of antisymmetric waves in the model is not enough to cause double ITCZ, and the lateral extent of equatorial waves does not play an important role in determining the width of the ITCZ but rather the latter may influence the former.

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Koichi Sakaguchi
,
L. Ruby Leung
,
Chun Zhao
,
Qing Yang
,
Jian Lu
,
Samson Hagos
,
Sara A. Rauscher
,
Li Dong
,
Todd D. Ringler
, and
Peter H. Lauritzen

Abstract

This study presents a diagnosis of a multiresolution approach using the Model for Prediction Across Scales–Atmosphere (MPAS-A) for simulating regional climate. Four Atmospheric Model Intercomparison Project (AMIP) experiments were conducted for 1999–2009. In the first two experiments, MPAS-A was configured using global quasi-uniform grids at 120- and 30-km grid spacing. In the other two experiments, MPAS-A was configured using variable-resolution (VR) mesh with local refinement at 30 km over North America and South America and embedded in a quasi-uniform domain at 120 km elsewhere. Precipitation and related fields in the four simulations are examined to determine how well the VRs reproduce the features simulated by the globally high-resolution model in the refined domain. In previous analyses of idealized aquaplanet simulations, characteristics of the global high-resolution simulation in moist processes developed only near the boundary of the refined region. In contrast, AMIP simulations with VR grids can reproduce high-resolution characteristics across the refined domain, particularly in South America. This finding indicates the importance of finely resolved lower boundary forcings such as topography and surface heterogeneity for regional climate and demonstrates the ability of the MPAS-A VR to replicate the large-scale moisture transport as simulated in the quasi-uniform high-resolution model. Upscale effects from the high-resolution regions on a large-scale circulation outside the refined domain are observed, but the effects are mainly limited to northeastern Asia during the warm season. Together, the results support the multiresolution approach as a computationally efficient and physically consistent method for modeling regional climate.

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Xiaoyan Jiang
,
Sara A. Rauscher
,
Todd D. Ringler
,
David M. Lawrence
,
A. Park Williams
,
Craig D. Allen
,
Allison L. Steiner
,
D. Michael Cai
, and
Nate G. McDowell

Abstract

Rapid and broad-scale forest mortality associated with recent droughts, rising temperature, and insect outbreaks has been observed over western North America (NA). Climate models project additional future warming and increasing drought and water stress for this region. To assess future potential changes in vegetation distributions in western NA, the Community Earth System Model (CESM) coupled with its Dynamic Global Vegetation Model (DGVM) was used under the future A2 emissions scenario. To better span uncertainties in future climate, eight sea surface temperature (SST) projections provided by phase 3 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP3) were employed as boundary conditions. There is a broad consensus among the simulations, despite differences in the simulated climate trajectories across the ensemble, that about half of the needleleaf evergreen tree coverage (from 24% to 11%) will disappear, coincident with a 14% (from 11% to 25%) increase in shrubs and grasses by the end of the twenty-first century in western NA, with most of the change occurring over the latter half of the twenty-first century. The net impact is a ~6 GtC or about 50% decrease in projected ecosystem carbon storage in this region. The findings suggest a potential for a widespread shift from tree-dominated landscapes to shrub and grass-dominated landscapes in western NA because of future warming and consequent increases in water deficits. These results highlight the need for improved process-based understanding of vegetation dynamics, particularly including mortality and the subsequent incorporation of these mechanisms into earth system models to better quantify the vulnerability of western NA forests under climate change.

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Jeremy S. Pal
,
Filippo Giorgi
,
Xunqiang Bi
,
Nellie Elguindi
,
Fabien Solmon
,
Xuejie Gao
,
Sara A. Rauscher
,
Raquel Francisco
,
Ashraf Zakey
,
Jonathan Winter
,
Moetasim Ashfaq
,
Faisal S. Syed
,
Jason L. Bell
,
Noah S. Diffenbaugh
,
Jagadish Karmacharya
,
Abourahamane Konaré
,
Daniel Martinez
,
Rosmeri P. da Rocha
,
Lisa C. Sloan
, and
Allison L. Steiner

Regional climate models are important research tools available to scientists around the world, including in economically developing nations (EDNs). The Earth Systems Physics (ESP) group of the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) maintains and distributes a state-of-the-science regional climate model called the ICTP Regional Climate Model version 3 (RegCM3), which is currently being used by a large research community for a diverse range of climate-related studies. The RegCM3 is the central, but not only, tool of the ICTP-maintained Regional Climate Research Network (RegCNET) aimed at creating south–south and north–south scientific interactions on the topic of climate and associated impacts research and modeling. In this paper, RegCNET, RegCM3, and illustrative results from RegCM3 benchmark simulations applied over south Asia, Africa, and South America are presented. It is shown that RegCM3 performs reasonably well over these regions and is therefore useful for climate studies in EDNs.

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