Projected future changes in synoptic systems influencing southwest Western Australia
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- Hope, P.K. Clim Dyn (2006) 26: 765. doi:10.1007/s00382-006-0116-x
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Rainfall in the southwest of Western Australia (SWWA) is sensitive to shifts in the hemispheric scale circulation due to its location at the northward extent of the influence of mid-latitude fronts. A step-drop in the 1970s to a new winter rainfall regime has caused great concern for water users in the region. The synoptic systems at the height of winter in the latter half of the 20th century over this region have been described in Hope et al. (Clim Dyn, 2006) using a self-organising map, and in this study the projected future shifts in those systems has been examined. Bounds are placed on the possible responses by examining a number of different models and, into the future, two scenarios at the upper (SRES A2) and lower (SRES B1) limits of plausible human induced emissions. Rainfall taken directly from the models captures the rainfall decline in the 1970s, and, although it is not as large as observed in any one model, all the models express a decline, which is a very strong result. Into the future the rainfall decline is dramatic. The scenario at the upper bound of emissions, where atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases continue to rise strongly, shows a rainfall decline right through to the end of the century. The shift in synoptic systems for most models is to far fewer troughs and more high pressure systems across the region. One model exhibits a different signature, with a shift to more systems with a zonal structure. The fact that there is a rainfall decline shown by all models, yet the synoptic changes are different, highlights how sensitive SWWA rainfall is to the different responses of climate models to increasing greenhouse gases. In the B1 scenario, the concentrations rise only slowly in the second half of the century and the shift is still to drier conditions, but it is not as striking. These results show that increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases lead to increasingly dry conditions in SWWA, and as the atmospheric concentrations rise, the synoptic response intensifies.