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John T. Abatzoglou, David E. Rupp, and Philip W. Mote

Abstract

Observed changes in climate of the U.S. Pacific Northwest since the early twentieth century were examined using four different datasets. Annual mean temperature increased by approximately 0.6°–0.8°C from 1901 to 2012, with corroborating indicators including a lengthened freeze-free season, increased temperature of the coldest night of the year, and increased growing-season potential evapotranspiration. Seasonal temperature trends over shorter time scales (<50 yr) were variable. Despite increased warming rates in most seasons over the last half century, nonsignificant cooling was observed during spring from 1980 to 2012. Observations show a long-term increase in spring precipitation; however, decreased summer and autumn precipitation and increased potential evapotranspiration have resulted in larger climatic water deficits over the past four decades. A bootstrapped multiple linear regression model was used to better resolve the temporal heterogeneity of seasonal temperature and precipitation trends and to apportion trends to internal climate variability, solar variability, volcanic aerosols, and anthropogenic forcing. The El Niño–Southern Oscillation and the Pacific–North American pattern were the primary modulators of seasonal temperature trends on multidecadal time scales: solar and volcanic forcing were nonsignificant predictors and contributed weakly to observed trends. Anthropogenic forcing was a significant predictor of, and the leading contributor to, long-term warming; natural factors alone fail to explain the observed warming. Conversely, poor model skill for seasonal precipitation suggests that other factors need to be considered to understand the sources of seasonal precipitation trends.

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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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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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Philip W. Mote, Myles R. Allen, Richard G. Jones, Sihan Li, Roberto Mera, David E. Rupp, Ahmed Salahuddin, and Dean Vickers

Abstract

Computing resources donated by volunteers have generated the first superensemble of regional climate model results, in which the Hadley Centre Regional Model, version 3P (HadRM3P), and Hadley Centre Atmosphere Model, version 3P (HadAM3P), were implemented for the western United States at 25-km resolution. Over 136,000 valid and complete 1-yr runs have been generated to date: about 126,000 for 1960–2009 using observed sea surface temperatures (SSTs) and 10,000 for 2030–49 using projected SSTs from a global model simulation. Ensemble members differ in initial conditions, model physics, and (potentially, for future runs) SSTs. This unprecedented confluence of high spatial resolution and large ensemble size allows high signal-to-noise ratio and more robust estimates of uncertainty. This paper describes the experiment, compares model output with observations, shows select results for climate change simulations, and gives examples of the strength of the large ensemble size.

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