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Matz A. Haugen, Michael L. Stein, Elisabeth J. Moyer, and Ryan L. Sriver

Abstract

Understanding future changes in extreme temperature events in a transient climate is inherently challenging. A single model simulation is generally insufficient to characterize the statistical properties of the evolving climate, but ensembles of repeated simulations with different initial conditions greatly expand the amount of data available. We present here a new approach for using ensembles to characterize changes in temperature distributions based on quantile regression that more flexibly characterizes seasonal changes. Specifically, our approach uses a continuous representation of seasonality rather than breaking the dataset into seasonal blocks; that is, we assume that temperature distributions evolve smoothly both day to day over an annual cycle and year to year over longer secular trends. To demonstrate our method’s utility, we analyze an ensemble of 50 simulations of the Community Earth System Model (CESM) under a scenario of increasing radiative forcing to 2100, focusing on North America. As previous studies have found, we see that daily temperature bulk variability generally decreases in wintertime in the continental mid- and high latitudes (>40°). A more subtle result that our approach uncovers is that differences in two low quantiles of wintertime temperatures do not shrink as much as the rest of the temperature distribution, producing a more negative skew in the overall distribution. Although the examples above concern temperature only, the technique is sufficiently general that it can be used to generate precise estimates of distributional changes in a broad range of climate variables by exploiting the power of ensembles.

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Won Chang, Michael L. Stein, Jiali Wang, V. Rao Kotamarthi, and Elisabeth J. Moyer

Abstract

Climate models robustly imply that some significant change in precipitation patterns will occur. Models consistently project that the intensity of individual precipitation events increases by approximately 6%–7% K−1, following the increase in atmospheric water content, but that total precipitation increases by a lesser amount (1%–2% K−1 in the global average in transient runs). Some other aspect of precipitation events must then change to compensate for this difference. The authors develop a new methodology for identifying individual rainstorms and studying their physical characteristics—including starting location, intensity, spatial extent, duration, and trajectory—that allows identifying that compensating mechanism. This technique is applied to precipitation over the contiguous United States from both radar-based data products and high-resolution model runs simulating 80 years of business-as-usual warming. In the model study the dominant compensating mechanism is a reduction of storm size. In summer, rainstorms become more intense but smaller; in winter, rainstorm shrinkage still dominates, but storms also become less numerous and shorter duration. These results imply that flood impacts from climate change will be less severe than would be expected from changes in precipitation intensity alone. However, these projected changes are smaller than model–observation biases, implying that the best means of incorporating them into impact assessments is via “data-driven simulations” that apply model-projected changes to observational data. The authors therefore develop a simulation algorithm that statistically describes model changes in precipitation characteristics and adjusts data accordingly, and they show that, especially for summertime precipitation, it outperforms simulation approaches that do not include spatial information.

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Stefano Castruccio, David J. McInerney, Michael L. Stein, Feifei Liu Crouch, Robert L. Jacob, and Elisabeth J. Moyer

Abstract

The authors describe a new approach for emulating the output of a fully coupled climate model under arbitrary forcing scenarios that is based on a small set of precomputed runs from the model. Temperature and precipitation are expressed as simple functions of the past trajectory of atmospheric CO2 concentrations, and a statistical model is fit using a limited set of training runs. The approach is demonstrated to be a useful and computationally efficient alternative to pattern scaling and captures the nonlinear evolution of spatial patterns of climate anomalies inherent in transient climates. The approach does as well as pattern scaling in all circumstances and substantially better in many; it is not computationally demanding; and, once the statistical model is fit, it produces emulated climate output effectively instantaneously. It may therefore find wide application in climate impacts assessments and other policy analyses requiring rapid climate projections.

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Jeffrey L. Stith, Darrel Baumgardner, Julie Haggerty, R. Michael Hardesty, Wen-Chau Lee, Donald Lenschow, Peter Pilewskie, Paul L. Smith, Matthias Steiner, and Holger Vömel

Abstract

Although atmospheric observing systems were already an important part of meteorology before the American Meteorological Society was established in 1919, the past 100 years have seen a steady increase in their numbers and types. Examples of how observing systems were developed and how they have enabled major scientific discoveries are presented. These examples include observing systems associated with the boundary layer, the upper air, clouds and precipitation, and solar and terrestrial radiation. Widely used specialized observing systems such as radar, lidar, and research aircraft are discussed, and examples of applications to weather forecasting and climate are given. Examples drawn from specific types of chemical measurements, such as ozone and carbon dioxide, are included. Sources of information on observing systems, including other chapters of this monograph, are also discussed. The past 100 years has been characterized by synergism between societal needs for weather observations and the needs of fundamental meteorological research into atmospheric processes. In the latter half of the period, observing system improvements have been driven by the increasing demands for higher-resolution data for numerical models, the need for long-term measurements, and for more global coverage. This has resulted in a growing demand for data access and for integrating data from an increasingly wide variety of observing system types and networks. These trends will likely continue.

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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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