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Jason L. Bell and Lisa C. Sloan

Abstract

Based upon trends in observed climate, extreme events are thought to be increasing in frequency and/or magnitude. This change in extreme events is attributed to enhancement of the hydrologic cycle caused by increased greenhouse gas concentrations. Results are presented of relatively long (50 yr) regional climate model simulations of the western United States examining the sensitivity of climate and extreme events to a doubling of preindustrial atmospheric CO2 concentrations. These results indicate a shift in the temperature distribution, resulting in fewer cold days and more hot days; the largest changes occur at high elevations. The rainfall distribution is also affected; total rain increases as a result of increases in rainfall during the spring season and at higher elevations. The risk of flooding is generally increased, as is the severity of droughts and heat waves. These results, combined with results of decreased snowpack and increased evaporation, could further stress the water supply of the western United States.

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Noah S. Diffenbaugh and Lisa C. Sloan

Abstract

Within the context of anthropogenic climate change, paleoclimate modeling has become a key technique for studying climate system responses to changes in external forcing. Of current interest is the response of regional-scale climate to global-scale changes in climate forcing, a problem made particularly difficult in regions of topographic complexity. In an effort to understand the role that regional-scale climate processes play in shaping the response of regional climate to changes in external forcing, the sensitivity of a high-resolution regional climate model (RCM) to mid-Holocene orbital forcing was tested, focusing on the Pacific coast region of the western United States as a case study. Mid-Holocene orbital forcing resulted in RCM-simulated summer warming of 1°–2.5°C over most of the western United States. This result is in strong agreement with proxy reconstructions, suggesting that regional mid-Holocene temperature change can be explained by direct orbital forcing alone, independent of climate system feedbacks. In contrast, positive anomalies (mid-Holocene—control) in mean annual precipitation − evaporation (PE), dominated by changes in atmospheric circulation in the seasonal transition months of March and November, were in disagreement with proxy reconstructions from the Pacific coast. This model–data mismatch in moisture characteristics suggests that direct orbital forcing of regional-scale atmospheric processes was not the sole influence shaping the mid-Holocene moisture record of the Pacific coast. It also indicates that consideration of regional-scale climate system feedbacks and extraregional process interactions is critical for the application of RCMs to both paleoclimate problems and future climate change scenarios.

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Mark A. Snyder and Lisa C. Sloan

Abstract

Regional climate models (RCMs) have improved our understanding of the effects of global climate change on specific regions. The need for realistic forcing has led to the use of fully coupled global climate models (GCMs) to produce boundary conditions for RCMs. The advantages of using fully coupled GCM output is that the global-scale interactions of all components of the climate system (ocean, sea ice, land surface, and atmosphere) are considered. This study uses an RCM, driven by a fully coupled GCM, to examine the climate of a region centered over California for the time periods 1980–99 and 2080–99. Statistically significant increases in mean monthly temperatures by up to 7°C are found for the entire state. Large changes in precipitation occur in northern California in February (increase of up to 4 mm day−1 or 30%) and March (decrease of up to 3 mm day−1 or 25%). However, in most months, precipitation changes between the cases were not statistically significant. Statistically significant decreases in snow accumulation of over 100 mm (50%) occur in some months. Temperature increases lead to decreases in snow accumulation that impact the hydrologic budget by shifting spring and summer runoff into the winter months, reinforcing results of other studies that used different models and driving conditions.

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Jason L. Bell, Lisa C. Sloan, and Mark A. Snyder

Abstract

In this study a regional climate model is employed to expand on modeling experiments of future climate change to address issues of 1) the timing and length of the growing season and 2) the frequency and intensity of extreme temperatures and precipitation. The study focuses on California as a climatically complex region that is vulnerable to changes in water supply and delivery. Statistically significant increases in daily minimum and maximum temperatures occur with a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration. Increases in daily temperatures lead to increases in prolonged heat waves and length of the growing season. Changes in total and extreme precipitation vary depending upon geographic location.

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David W. Pierce, Daniel R. Cayan, Tapash Das, Edwin P. Maurer, Norman L. Miller, Yan Bao, M. Kanamitsu, Kei Yoshimura, Mark A. Snyder, Lisa C. Sloan, Guido Franco, and Mary Tyree

Abstract

Climate model simulations disagree on whether future precipitation will increase or decrease over California, which has impeded efforts to anticipate and adapt to human-induced climate change. This disagreement is explored in terms of daily precipitation frequency and intensity. It is found that divergent model projections of changes in the incidence of rare heavy (>60 mm day−1) daily precipitation events explain much of the model disagreement on annual time scales, yet represent only 0.3% of precipitating days and 9% of annual precipitation volume. Of the 25 downscaled model projections examined here, 21 agree that precipitation frequency will decrease by the 2060s, with a mean reduction of 6–14 days yr−1. This reduces California's mean annual precipitation by about 5.7%. Partly offsetting this, 16 of the 25 projections agree that daily precipitation intensity will increase, which accounts for a model average 5.3% increase in annual precipitation. Between these conflicting tendencies, 12 projections show drier annual conditions by the 2060s and 13 show wetter. These results are obtained from 16 global general circulation models downscaled with different combinations of dynamical methods [Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF), Regional Spectral Model (RSM), and version 3 of the Regional Climate Model (RegCM3)] and statistical methods [bias correction with spatial disaggregation (BCSD) and bias correction with constructed analogs (BCCA)], although not all downscaling methods were applied to each global model. Model disagreements in the projected change in occurrence of the heaviest precipitation days (>60 mm day−1) account for the majority of disagreement in the projected change in annual precipitation, and occur preferentially over the Sierra Nevada and Northern California. When such events are excluded, nearly twice as many projections show drier future conditions.

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William J. Gutowski Jr., Raymond W. Arritt, Sho Kawazoe, David M. Flory, Eugene S. Takle, Sébastien Biner, Daniel Caya, Richard G. Jones, René Laprise, L. Ruby Leung, Linda O. Mearns, Wilfran Moufouma-Okia, Ana M. B. Nunes, Yun Qian, John O. Roads, Lisa C. Sloan, and Mark A. Snyder

Abstract

This paper analyzes the ability of the North American Regional Climate Change Assessment Program (NARCCAP) ensemble of regional climate models to simulate extreme monthly precipitation and its supporting circulation for regions of North America, comparing 18 years of simulations driven by the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP)–Department of Energy (DOE) reanalysis with observations. The analysis focuses on the wettest 10% of months during the cold half of the year (October–March), when it is assumed that resolved synoptic circulation governs precipitation. For a coastal California region where the precipitation is largely topographic, the models individually and collectively replicate well the monthly frequency of extremes, the amount of extreme precipitation, and the 500-hPa circulation anomaly associated with the extremes. The models also replicate very well the statistics of the interannual variability of occurrences of extremes. For an interior region containing the upper Mississippi River basin, where precipitation is more dependent on internally generated storms, the models agree with observations in both monthly frequency and magnitude, although not as closely as for coastal California. In addition, simulated circulation anomalies for extreme months are similar to those in observations. Each region has important seasonally varying precipitation processes that govern the occurrence of extremes in the observations, and the models appear to replicate well those variations.

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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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Maurice Blackmon, Byron Boville, Frank Bryan, Robert Dickinson, Peter Gent, Jeffrey Kiehl, Richard Moritz, David Randall, Jagadish Shukla, Susan Solomon, Gordon Bonan, Scott Doney, Inez Fung, James Hack, Elizabeth Hunke, James Hurrell, John Kutzbach, Jerry Meehl, Bette Otto-Bliesner, R. Saravanan, Edwin K. Schneider, Lisa Sloan, Michael Spall, Karl Taylor, Joseph Tribbia, and Warren Washington

The Community Climate System Model (CCSM) has been created to represent the principal components of the climate system and their interactions. Development and applications of the model are carried out by the U.S. climate research community, thus taking advantage of both wide intellectual participation and computing capabilities beyond those available to most individual U.S. institutions. This article outlines the history of the CCSM, its current capabilities, and plans for its future development and applications, with the goal of providing a summary useful to present and future users.

The initial version of the CCSM included atmosphere and ocean general circulation models, a land surface model that was grafted onto the atmosphere model, a sea-ice model, and a “flux coupler” that facilitates information exchanges among the component models with their differing grids. This version of the model produced a successful 300-yr simulation of the current climate without artificial flux adjustments. The model was then used to perform a coupled simulation in which the atmospheric CO2 concentration increased by 1 % per year.

In this version of the coupled model, the ocean salinity and deep-ocean temperature slowly drifted away from observed values. A subsequent correction to the roughness length used for sea ice significantly reduced these errors. An updated version of the CCSM was used to perform three simulations of the twentieth century's climate, and several projections of the climate of the twenty-first century.

The CCSM's simulation of the tropical ocean circulation has been significantly improved by reducing the background vertical diffusivity and incorporating an anisotropic horizontal viscosity tensor. The meridional resolution of the ocean model was also refined near the equator. These changes have resulted in a greatly improved simulation of both the Pacific equatorial undercurrent and the surface countercurrents. The interannual variability of the sea surface temperature in the central and eastern tropical Pacific is also more realistic in simulations with the updated model.

Scientific challenges to be addressed with future versions of the CCSM include realistic simulation of the whole atmosphere, including the middle and upper atmosphere, as well as the troposphere; simulation of changes in the chemical composition of the atmosphere through the incorporation of an integrated chemistry model; inclusion of global, prognostic biogeochemical components for land, ocean, and atmosphere; simulations of past climates, including times of extensive continental glaciation as well as times with little or no ice; studies of natural climate variability on seasonal-to-centennial timescales; and investigations of anthropogenic climate change. In order to make such studies possible, work is under way to improve all components of the model. Plans call for a new version of the CCSM to be released in 2002. Planned studies with the CCSM will require much more computer power than is currently available.

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