Climate Dynamics

, Volume 41, Issue 5–6, pp 1245–1267 | Cite as

Interannual variability and expected regional climate change over North America

  • Ramón de Elía
  • Sébastien Biner
  • Anne Frigon


This study aims to analyse the interannual variability simulated by several regional climate models (RCMs), and its potential for disguising the effect of seasonal temperature increases due to greenhouse gases. In order to accomplish this, we used an ensemble of regional climate change projections over North America belonging to the North American Regional Climate Change Program, with an additional pair of 140-year continuous runs from the Canadian RCM. We find that RCM-simulated interannual variability shows important departures from observed one in some cases, and also from the driving models’ variability, while the expected climate change signal coincides with estimations presented in previous studies. The continuous runs from the Canadian RCM were used to illustrate the effect of interannual variability in trend estimation for horizons of a decade or more. As expected, it can contribute to the existence of transitory cooling trends over a few decades, embedded within the expected long-term warming trends. A new index related to signal-to-noise ratio was developed to evaluate the expected number of years it takes for the warming trend to emerge from interannual variability. Our results suggest that detection of the climate change signal is expected to occur earlier in summer than in winter almost everywhere, despite the fact that winter temperature generally has a much stronger climate change signal. In particular, we find that the province of Quebec and northwestern Mexico may possibly feel climate change in winter earlier than elsewhere in North America. Finally, we show that the spatial and temporal scales of interest are fundamental for our capacity of discriminating climate change from interannual variability.


Interannual Variability Regional Climate Model Climate Change Signal Regional Climate Model Simulation Natural Climate Variability 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors wish to thank the North American Regional Climate Change Assessment Program (NARCCAP) for providing the data used in this paper. NARCCAP is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the US Department of Energy (DoE), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the US Environmental Protection Agency Office of research and development (EPA). We would also like to acknowledge the Ouranos climate simulation and analysis team for generating and supplying output from the continuous 140-year runs from the Canadian RCM, and the Canadian Center for climate modelling and analysis (CCCma) for kindly providing the CGCM3 driving data. The authors also want to thank the editor and the reviewers, especially one of them who contributed considerably to the improvement of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ramón de Elía
    • 1
    • 2
  • Sébastien Biner
    • 1
  • Anne Frigon
    • 1
  1. 1.Consortium OuranosMontrealCanada
  2. 2.Centre pour l’Étude et la Simulation du Climat à l’Échelle Régionale (ESCER)Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM)MontrealCanada

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