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Regional Climates in the GISS General Circulation Model: Surface Air Temperature

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  • 1 Department of Environmental and Geographical Sciences, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, South Africa
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Abstract

One of the more viable research techniques into global climate change for the purpose of understanding the consequent environmental impacts is based on the use of general circulation models (GCMs). However, GCMs are currently unable to reliably predict the regional climate change resulting from global warming, and it is at the regional scale that predictions are required for understanding human and environmental responses. Regional climates in the extratropics are in large part governed by the synoptic-scale circulation and the feasibility of using this interscale relationship is explored to provide a way of moving to grid cell and sub-grid cell scales in the model. The relationships between the daily circulation systems and surface air temperature for points across the continental United States are first developed in a quantitative form using a multivariate index based on principal components analysis (PCA) of the surface circulation. These relationships are then validated by predicting daily temperatures using observed circulation and comparing the predicted values with the observed temperatures. The relationships predict surface temperature accurately over the major portion of the country in winter, and for half the country in summer. These relationships are then applied to the surface synoptic circulation of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies GCM control run, and a set of surface grid cell temperatures are generated. These temperatures, based on the larger-scale validated circulation, may now be used with greater confidence at the regional scale. The generated temperatures are compared to those of the model and show that the model has regional errors of up to 1O°C in individual grid cells.

Abstract

One of the more viable research techniques into global climate change for the purpose of understanding the consequent environmental impacts is based on the use of general circulation models (GCMs). However, GCMs are currently unable to reliably predict the regional climate change resulting from global warming, and it is at the regional scale that predictions are required for understanding human and environmental responses. Regional climates in the extratropics are in large part governed by the synoptic-scale circulation and the feasibility of using this interscale relationship is explored to provide a way of moving to grid cell and sub-grid cell scales in the model. The relationships between the daily circulation systems and surface air temperature for points across the continental United States are first developed in a quantitative form using a multivariate index based on principal components analysis (PCA) of the surface circulation. These relationships are then validated by predicting daily temperatures using observed circulation and comparing the predicted values with the observed temperatures. The relationships predict surface temperature accurately over the major portion of the country in winter, and for half the country in summer. These relationships are then applied to the surface synoptic circulation of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies GCM control run, and a set of surface grid cell temperatures are generated. These temperatures, based on the larger-scale validated circulation, may now be used with greater confidence at the regional scale. The generated temperatures are compared to those of the model and show that the model has regional errors of up to 1O°C in individual grid cells.

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