Climatic Change

, Volume 99, Issue 3, pp 403-423

First online:

Anthropogenic-induced changes in twenty-first century summertime hydroclimatology of the Northeastern US

  • Bruce T. AndersonAffiliated withDepartment of Geography and Environment, Boston University Email author 
  • , Katharine HayhoeAffiliated withDepartment of Geosciences, Texas Tech University
  • , Xin-Zhong LiangAffiliated withIllinois Department of Natural Resources, Illinois State Water Survey, University of Illinois

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Potential changes in summertime hydroclimatology over the northeastern (NE) region of the USA induced by increases in greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations are investigated using a state-of-the-art regional climate modeling system. Results for a higher emissions scenario illustrate changes that may occur if dependence on fossil fuels continues over the coming century. Summertime precipitation is projected to decrease across much of the central NE, but increase over the southernmost and northernmost portions of the domain. Evaporation is expected to increase across the entire domain. The balance between these two results in a decrease in soil moisture content across most of the domain (by approximately 10 mm) and an increase in the summertime soil-moisture depletion rate (by approximately 10 mm/month). At the same time, an increase in both atmospheric near-surface specific and saturation specific humidity is projected, resulting in an increase in relative humidity across the southern portion of the domain, with slight decreases over the northern portion. Combined with an average increase in summer temperatures of 3.5°C, the projected increase in relative humidity results in a marked increase in the average daily maximum heat index for the region on the order of 3.9°C, as well as a 350–400% increase in the number of days with heat index values exceeding 32.2°C (90°F)—the level of “extreme caution”. Taken together, these high-resolution, dynamically-generated projections confirm the potential for significant summertime climate change impacts on the NE over the coming century as suggested by previous studies.