Climatic Change

, Volume 127, Issue 2, pp 273–287 | Cite as

Changing climate extremes in the Northeast United States: observations and projections from CMIP5

  • Jeanne M. ThibeaultEmail author
  • Anji Seth


Climate extremes indices are evaluated for the northeast United States and adjacent Canada (Northeast) using gridded observations and twenty-three CMIP5 coupled models. Previous results have demonstrated observed increases in warm and wet extremes and decreases in cold extremes, consistent with changes expected in a warming world. Here, a significant shift is found in the distribution of observed total annual precipitation over 1981-2010. In addition, significant positive trends are seen in all observed wet precipitation indices over 1951-2010. For the Northeast region, CMIP5 models project significant shifts in the distributions of most temperature and precipitation indices by 2041-2070. By the late century, the coldest (driest) future extremes are projected to be warmer (wetter) than the warmest (wettest) extremes at present. The multimodel interquartile range compares well with observations, providing a measure of confidence in the projections in this region. Spatial analysis suggests that the largest increases in heavy precipitation extremes are projected for northern, coastal, and mountainous areas. Results suggest that the projected increase in total annual precipitation is strongly influenced by increases in winter wet extremes. The largest decreases in cold extremes are projected for northern and interior portions of the Northeast, while the largest increases in summer warm extremes are projected for densely populated southern, central, and coastal areas. This study provides a regional analysis and verification of the latest generation of CMIP global models specifically for the Northeast, useful to stakeholders focused on understanding and adapting to climate change and its impacts in the region.


Climate extremes Northeast CMIP5 ETCCDI HadEX2 



We appreciate the thoughtful comments of three anonymous reviewers, which helped to improve this manuscript. We acknowledge the World Climate Research Programme’s Working Group on Coupled Modelling, which is responsible for CMIP, and thank the climate modeling groups (see Supplementary Table 2 of Supplementary Material) for producing and making available their model output. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison provides coordinating support and led development of software infrastructure in partnership with the Global Organization for Earth System Science Portals. We also acknowledge the ETCCDI extremes indices archive at Environment Canada for computing indices for ERA-interim and the CMIP5 models used in this study. We would also like to thank the CLIMDEX project for making the HadEX2 data available at through the WMO ETCCDI, Linkage Project LP100200690. This research was funded by NSF CAREER Award # 1056216.

Supplementary material

10584_2014_1257_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (3.7 mb)
(PDF 3.71 MB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of ConnecticutStorrsUSA

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