Quantifying the Influence of Dynamics Across Scales on Regional Climate Uncertainty in Western North America
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Uncertainties in climate projections at the regional scale are inevitably larger than those for global mean quantities. Here, focusing on western North American regional climate, several approaches are taken to quantifying uncertainties starting with the output of global climate model projections. Internal variance is found to be an important component of the projection uncertainty up and down the west coast. To quantify internal variance and other projection uncertainties in existing climate models, we evaluate different ensemble configurations. Using a statistical framework to simultaneously account for multiple sources of uncertainty, we find internal variability can be quantified consistently using a large ensemble or an ensemble of opportunity that includes small ensembles from multiple models and climate scenarios. The latter offers the advantage of also producing estimates of uncertainty due to model differences. We conclude that climate projection uncertainties are best assessed using small single-model ensembles from as many model-scenario pairings as computationally feasible. We then conduct a small single-model ensemble of simulations using the Model for Predic- tion Across Scales with physics from the Community Atmosphere Model Version 5 (MPAS- CAM5) and prescribed historical sea surface temperatures. In the global variable resolution domain, the finest resolution (at 30 km) is in our region of interest over western North Amer- ica and upwind over the northeast Pacific. In the finer-scale region, extreme precipitation from atmospheric rivers (ARs) is connected to tendencies in seasonal snowpack in mountains of the Northwest United States and California. In most of the Cascade Mountains, winters with more AR days are associated with less snowpack, in contrast to the northern Rockies and California’s Sierra Nevadas. In snowpack observations and reanalysis of the atmospheric circulation, we find similar relationships between frequency of AR events and winter season snowpack in the western United States. In spring, however, there is not a clear relationship between number of AR days and seasonal mean snowpack across the model ensemble, so caution is urged in interpreting the historical record in the spring season. Finally, the representation of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) — an important source of interannual climate predictability in some regions — is explored in a large single- model ensemble using ensemble Empirical Orthogonal Functions (EOFs) to find modes of variance across the entire ensemble at once. The leading EOF is ENSO. The principal components (PCs) of the next three EOFs exhibit a lead-lag relationship with the ENSO signal captured in the first PC. The second PC, with most of its variance in the summer season, is the most strongly cross-correlated with the first. This approach offers insight into how the model considered represents this important atmosphere-ocean interaction. Taken together these varied approaches quantify the implications of climate projections regionally, identify processes that make snowpack water resources vulnerable, and seek insight into how to better simulate the large-scale climate modes controlling regional variability.
- Atmospheric sciences