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Sihan Li, Philip W. Mote, David E. Rupp, Dean Vickers, Roberto Mera, and Myles Allen
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Sihan Li, Philip W. Mote, David E. Rupp, Dean Vickers, Roberto Mera, and Myles Allen

Abstract

Simulations from a regional climate model (RCM) as part of a superensemble experiment were compared with observations of surface meteorological variables over the western United States. The RCM is the Hadley Centre Regional Climate Model, version 3, with improved physics parameterizations (HadRM3P) run at 25-km resolution and nested within the Hadley Centre Atmosphere Model, version 3 (HadAM3P). Overall, the means of seasonal temperature were well represented in the simulations; 95% of grid points were within 2.7°, 2.4°, and 3.6°C of observations in winter, spring, and summer, respectively. The model was too warm over most of the domain in summer except central California and southern Nevada. HadRM3P produced more extreme temperatures than observed. The overall magnitude and spatial pattern of precipitation were well characterized, though HadRM3P exaggerated the orographic enhancement along the coastal mountains, Cascade Range, and Sierra Nevada. HadRM3P produced warm/dry northwest, cool/wet southwest U.S. patterns associated with El Niño. However, there were notable differences, including the locations of the transition from warm (dry) to cool (wet) in the anomaly fields when compared with observations, though there was disagreement among observations. HadRM3P simulated the observed spatial pattern of mean annual temperature more faithfully than any of the RCM–GCM pairings in the North American Regional Climate Change Assessment Program (NARCCAP). Errors in mean annual precipitation from HadRM3P fell within the range of errors of the NARCCAP models. Last, this paper provided examples of the size of an ensemble required to detect changes at the local level and demonstrated the effect of parameter perturbation on regional precipitation.

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David E. Rupp, Sihan Li, Philip W. Mote, Neil Massey, Sarah N. Sparrow, and David C. H. Wallom

Abstract

The impacts of sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies and anthropogenic greenhouse gases on the likelihood of extreme drought occurring in the central United States in the year 2012 were investigated using large-ensemble simulations from a global atmospheric climate model. Two sets of experiments were conducted. In the first, the simulated hydroclimate of 2012 was compared to a baseline period (1986–2014) to investigate the impact of SSTs. In the second, the hydroclimate in a world with 2012-level anthropogenic forcing was compared to five “counterfactual” versions of a 2012 world under preindustrial forcing. SST anomalies in 2012 increased the simulated likelihood of an extreme summer precipitation deficit (e.g., the deficit with a 2% exceedance probability) by a factor of 5. The likelihood of an extreme summer soil moisture deficit increased by a similar amount, due in great part to a large spring soil moisture deficit carrying over into summer. An anthropogenic impact on precipitation was detectable in the simulations, doubling the likelihood of what would have been a rainfall deficit with a 2% exceedance probability under preindustrial-level forcings. Despite this reduction in rainfall, summer soil moisture during extreme drought was essentially unaffected by anthropogenic forcing because of 1) evapotranspiration declining roughly one-to-one with a decrease in precipitation due to severe water supply constraint and despite higher evaporative demand and 2) a decrease in stomatal conductance, and therefore a decrease in potential transpiration, with higher atmospheric CO2 concentrations.

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