Estimating the Response of Mid-latitude Orographic Precipitation to Global Warming
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The possible change in orographic precipitation in response to global warming is a rising concern under climate change, which could potentially cause significant societal impact. A general circulation model was employed to simulate the climate on an aquaplanet which has idealized mountains at its mid-latitudes. It was found that orographic precipitation at northern mid-latitudes could increase by rates faster than the Clausius-Clapeyron scaling, 7%/K of surface warming, in doubling CO2 simulations, while at southern mid-latitudes orographic precipitation decreased. The frequency of extreme events increased at all latitudes of the idealized mountains. Through a simple diagnostic model it was revealed that the changes in the climatological means of orographic precipitation rates were mostly determined by the changes in three variables: the speed of the wind component perpendicular to a mountain, the vertical displacement of saturated parcels, and the moist adiabatic lapse rate of saturation specific humidity. The last variable had relatively uniform contribution to the total changes in orographic precipitation across different latitudes, about 4 - 5%/K. But contributions from the changes in wind speed and saturated vertical displacement were found to have strong north-south asymmetry, which were linked to the poleward shift of storm tracks. The changes in wind speed had positive contributions in general, with larger contributions at higher mid-latitudes. While the changes in saturated vertical displacement had negative contributions at all latitudes, but larger negative contributions were located at lower midlatitudes. Although the poleward shift of storm tracks greatly affects regional precipitation, following the poleward shift of storm tracks the cumulative distribution function (CDF) of precipitation at the latitudes of maximum precipitation in the control simulation is very similar to that in the warm climate climate simulation, except that precipitation intensity was positively shifted by a constant factor &mdash mainly due to changes in the moist adiabatic lapse rate of saturation specific humidity.
- Atmospheric sciences