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Trends in Extreme Weather and Climate Events: Issues Related to Modeling Extremes in Projections of Future Climate Change

Gerald A. Meehl
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Francis Zwiers
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Jenni Evans
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Thomas Knutson
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Linda Mearns
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Peter Whetton
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Projections of statistical aspects of weather and climate extremes can be derived from climate models representing possible future climate states. Some of the recent models have reproduced results previously reported in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Second Assessment Report, such as a greater frequency of extreme warm days and lower frequency of extreme cold days associated with a warmer mean climate, a decrease in diurnal temperature range associated with higher nighttime temperatures, increased precipitation intensity, midcontinent summer drying, decreasing daily variability of surface temperature in winter, and increasing variability of northern midlatitude summer surface temperatures. This reconfirmation of previous results gives an increased confidence in the credibility of the models, though agreement among models does not guarantee those changes will occur. New results since the IPCC Second Assessment Report indicate a possible increase of extreme heat stress events in a warmer climate, an increase of cooling degree days and decrease in heating degree days, an increase of precipitation extremes such that there is a decrease in return periods for 20-yr extreme precipitation events, and more detailed analyses of possible changes in 20-yr return values for extreme maximum and minimum temperatures. Additionally, recent studies are now addressing interannual and synoptic time and space scale processes that affect weather and climate extremes, such as tropical cyclones, El Niño effects, and extratropical storms. However, current climate models are not yet in agreement with respect to possible future changes in such features.

*This is the third of five papers in the “Understanding Changes in Weather and Climate Extremes” series.

+National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado.

#Canadian Centre for Modelling and Analysis, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

@Department of Meteorology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania.

&Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Princeton, New Jersey.

**CSIRO, Aspendale, Victoria, Australia.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Gerald A. Meehl, Climate and Global Dynamics Division, NCAR, P.O. Box 3000, Boulder, CO 80307-3000. E-mail: meehl@ncar.ucar.edu

Projections of statistical aspects of weather and climate extremes can be derived from climate models representing possible future climate states. Some of the recent models have reproduced results previously reported in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Second Assessment Report, such as a greater frequency of extreme warm days and lower frequency of extreme cold days associated with a warmer mean climate, a decrease in diurnal temperature range associated with higher nighttime temperatures, increased precipitation intensity, midcontinent summer drying, decreasing daily variability of surface temperature in winter, and increasing variability of northern midlatitude summer surface temperatures. This reconfirmation of previous results gives an increased confidence in the credibility of the models, though agreement among models does not guarantee those changes will occur. New results since the IPCC Second Assessment Report indicate a possible increase of extreme heat stress events in a warmer climate, an increase of cooling degree days and decrease in heating degree days, an increase of precipitation extremes such that there is a decrease in return periods for 20-yr extreme precipitation events, and more detailed analyses of possible changes in 20-yr return values for extreme maximum and minimum temperatures. Additionally, recent studies are now addressing interannual and synoptic time and space scale processes that affect weather and climate extremes, such as tropical cyclones, El Niño effects, and extratropical storms. However, current climate models are not yet in agreement with respect to possible future changes in such features.

*This is the third of five papers in the “Understanding Changes in Weather and Climate Extremes” series.

+National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado.

#Canadian Centre for Modelling and Analysis, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

@Department of Meteorology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania.

&Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Princeton, New Jersey.

**CSIRO, Aspendale, Victoria, Australia.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Gerald A. Meehl, Climate and Global Dynamics Division, NCAR, P.O. Box 3000, Boulder, CO 80307-3000. E-mail: meehl@ncar.ucar.edu
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