, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 5-37

Change in climate variability in the 21st century

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Abstract

As climate changes due to the increase of greenhouse gases, there is the potential for climate variability to change as well. The change in variability of temperature and precipitation in a transient climate simulation, where trace gases are allowed to increase gradually, and in the doubled CO2 climate is investigated using the GISS general circulation model. The current climate control run is compared with observations and with the climate change simulations for variability on three time-scales: interannual variability, daily variability, and the amplitude of the diurnal cycle. The results show that the modeled variability is often larger than observed, especially in late summer, possibly due to the crude ground hydrology. In the warmer climates, temperature variability and the diurnal cycle amplitude usually decrease, in conjunction with a decrease in the latitudinal temperature gradient and the increased greenhouse inhibition of radiative cooling. Precipitation variability generally changes with the same sign as the mean precipitation itself, usually increasing in the warmer climate. Changes at a particular grid box are often not significant, with the prevailing tendency determined from a broader sampling. Little change is seen in daily persistence. The results are relevant to the continuing assessments of climate change impacts on society, though their use should be tempered by appreciation of the model deficiencies for the current climate.