Climate Dynamics

, Volume 44, Issue 9–10, pp 2737–2750 | Cite as

CMIP5 projected changes in spring and summer drought and wet conditions over North America

  • Sharmistha Swain
  • Katharine HayhoeEmail author


Climate change is expected to alter the mean and variability of future spring and summer drought and wet conditions during the twenty-first century across North America, as characterized by the Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI). Based on Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 5 simulations, statistically significant increases are projected in mean spring SPI over the northern part of the continent, and drier conditions across the southwest. Dry conditions in summer also increase, particularly throughout the central Great Plains. By end of century, greater changes are projected under a higher radiative forcing scenario (RCP 8.5) as compared to moderate (RCP 6.0) and lower (RCP 4.5). Analysis of projected changes standardized to a range of global warming thresholds from +1 to +4 °C reveals a consistent spatial pattern of wetter conditions in the northern and drier conditions in the southwestern part of the continent in spring that intensifies under increased warming, suggesting that the magnitude of projected changes in wetness and drought may scale with global temperature. For many regions, SPI interannual variability is also projected to increase (even for regions that are projected to become drier), indicating that climate may become more extreme under greater warming, with increased frequency of both extreme dry and wet seasons. Quantifying the direction and magnitude of projected future trends from global warming is key to informing strategies to mitigate human influence on climate and help natural and managed resources adapt.


North America Great Plains Drought Standardized Precipitation Index Climate projections CMIP5 

Supplementary material

382_2014_2255_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (109 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 108 kb)
382_2014_2255_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (544 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (PDF 543 kb)
382_2014_2255_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (113 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (PDF 113 kb)
382_2014_2255_MOESM4_ESM.pdf (312 kb)
Supplementary material 4 (PDF 312 kb)
382_2014_2255_MOESM5_ESM.pdf (233 kb)
Supplementary material 5 (PDF 233 kb)
382_2014_2255_MOESM6_ESM.pdf (29 kb)
Supplementary material 6 (PDF 29 kb)


  1. Allen MR, Ingram WJ (2002) Constraints on future changes in climate and the hydrologic cycle. Nature 419:224–232CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Andreadis KM, Lettenmaier DP (2006) Trends in 20th century drought over the continental United States. Geophys Res Lett 33:L10403. doi: 10.1029/2006GL025711 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Appendini K, Liverman D (1994) Agricultural policy, climate change and food security in Mexico. Food Policy 19:149–164CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Byun H, Wilhite DA (1999) Objective quantification of drought severity and duration. J Clim 12:2747–2756CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cook B, Smerdon J, Seager R, Coats S (2014) Global warming and 21st century drying. Clim Dyn. doi: 10.1007/s00382-014-2075-y
  6. Dai A (2011) Drought under global warming: a review. Wiley Interdiscip Rev Clim Change 2:45–65CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Dai A (2013) Increasing drought under global warming in observations and models. Nat Clim Change 3:52–58CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dai A, Trenberth KE, Qian T (2004) A global dataset of Palmer Drought Severity Index for 1870–2002: relationship with soil moisture and effects of surface warming. J Hydrometeorol 5:1117–1130CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Donat MG et al (2013) Updated analyses of temperature and precipitation extreme indices since the beginning of the twentieth century: the HadEX2 dataset. J Geophys Res Atmos 118:1–16. doi: 10.1002/jgrd.50150 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Feng S, Krueger AB, Oppenheimer M (2010) Linkages among climate change, crop yields and Mexico–US cross-border migration. Proc Natl Acad Sci 107:14257–14262CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Gregory JM, Mitchell JF, Brady AJ (1997) Summer drought in northern mid-latitudes in a time-dependent CO2 climate experiment. J Clim 10:662–686CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Groisman PY, Richard WK, Thomas RK (2001) Heavy precipitation and high stream flow in the contiguous United States: trends in the twentieth century. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 82:219–246CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Guttman NB (1999) Accepting the Standardized Precipitation Index: a calculation algorithm. J Am Water Resour Assoc 35:311–322CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hall A, Qu X (2006) Using the current seasonal cycle to constrain snow albedo feedback in future climate change. Geophys Res Lett 33:L03502. doi: 10.1029/2005GL025127 Google Scholar
  15. Harris I, Jones PD, Osborn TJ, Lister DH (2013) Updated high-resolution grids of monthly climatic observations—the CRU TS3.10 dataset. Int J Climatol. doi: 10.1002/joc.3711 Google Scholar
  16. Hayes MJ, Svoboda MD, Wilhite DA, Vanyarkho OV (1999) Monitoring the 1996 drought using the Standardized Precipitation Index. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 80:429–438CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hayhoe K, Cayan D, Field C, Frumhoff P, Maurer E, Miller N, Moser S, Schneider S, Cahill K, Cleland E, Dale L, Drapek R, Hanemann RM, Kalkstein L, Lenihan J, Lunch C, Neilson R, Sheridan S, Verville J (2004) Emissions pathways, climate change, and impacts on California. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 101(34):12422–12427Google Scholar
  18. Heim RR Jr (2002) A review of twentieth-century drought indices used in the United States. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 83:1149–1165CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Held I, Soden B (2006) Robust responses of the hydrological cycle to global warming. J Clim 19(21):5686–5699CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. James R, Washington R (2013) Changes in African temperature and precipitation associated with degrees of global warming. Clim Change 117:859–872CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Johnson WC, Millett BV, Gilmanov T, Voldseth RA, Guntenspergen GR, Naugle DE (2005) Vulnerability of northern prairie wetlands to climate change. Bioscience 55:863–872CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kaplan JO, New M (2006) Arctic climate change with a 2°C global warming: timing, climate patterns and vegetation change. Clim Change 79:213–241CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Karl TR, Knight RW (1998) Secular trends of precipitation amount, frequency, and intensity in the United States. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 79:231–241CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Karl TR, Trenberth KE (2003) Modern global climate change. Science 302:1719–1723. doi: 10.1126/science.1090228 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Karl TR, Melillo JM, Peterson TC (2009) Global climate change impacts in the United States. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  26. Keyantash J, Dracup JA (2002) The quantification of drought: an evaluation of drought indices. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 83:1167–1180CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Knutti R, Furrer R, Tebaldi C, Cermak J, Meehl GA (2010) Challenges in combining projections from multiple climate models. J Clim 23:2739–2758CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kunkel KE, Easterling DR, Redmond K, Hubbard K (2003) Temporal variations of extreme precipitation events in the United States: 1895–2000. Geophys Res Lett 30(17):1900. doi: 10.1029/2003GL018052.j CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kunkel KE, Karl TR, Brooks H et al (2013) Monitoring and understanding trends in extreme storms: state of knowledge. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 94:499–514CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Langford S, Stevenson S, Noone D (2014) Analysis of low-frequency precipitation variability in CMIP5 historical simulations for southwestern North America. J Clim 27:2735–2756CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Liu SC, Fu C, Shiu CJ, Chen JP, Wu F (2009) Temperature dependence of global precipitation extremes. Geophys Res Lett 36:L17702. doi: 10.1029/2009GL040218 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lloyd-Hughes B, Saunders MA (2002) A drought climatology for Europe. Int J Climatol 22:1571–1592CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. McIntyre NE, Wright CK, Swain S, Hayhoe K, Liu G, Schwartz FW, Henebry GM (2014) Climate forcing of wetland landscape connectivity in the Great Plains. Front Ecol Environ 12:59–64CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. McKee, TB, Doesken NJ, Kleist J (1993) The relationship of drought frequency and duration to time scales. In: Proceedings of the 8th conference on applied climatology, AMS, Boston, pp 179–184Google Scholar
  35. Melillo JM, Richmond T, Yohe GW Eds. (2014) Climate change impacts in the United States: the third national climate assessment. U.S. Global change research program, 841 pp. doi: 10.7930/J0Z31WJ2
  36. Mishra V, Wallace JM, Lettenmaier DP (2012) Relationship between hourly extreme precipitation and local air temperature in the United States. Geophys Res Lett 39:L16403. doi: 10.1029/2012GL052790 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Mitchell JFB, Davis RA, Ingram WJ, Senior CA (1995) On surface temperature, greenhouse gases, and aerosols: models and observations. J Clim 8:2364–2386CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Mote P (2006) Climate-driven variability and trends in mountain snowpack in western North America. J Clim 19:6209–6220CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Muller RC, Cudder CM, Porter ME, Trotter RT III, Gehring CA, Whitham TG (2005) Differential tree mortality in response to severe drought: evidence for long-term vegetation shifts. J Ecol 93:1085–1093CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. NDMC (2013) What is drought? National Drought Mitigation Center. Accessed 22 June 2013
  41. NOAA (2013) Billion-dollar weather/climate disasters. Accessed 16 Sept 2013
  42. NRC (2011) Climate stabilization targets: emissions, concentrations, and impacts over decades to millennia. National Research Council, The National Academies Press, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  43. Orlowsky B, Seneviratne SI (2013) Elusive drought: uncertainty in observed trends and short- and long-term CMIP5 projections. Hydr Earth Syst Sci 17:1765–1780CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Palmer WC (1965) Meteorological drought. Research Paper No. 45, 58 pp., Department of Commerce, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  45. Pielke RA, Downton MW (2000) Precipitation and damaging floods: trends in the United States, 1932–97. J Clim 13:3625–3637CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Ryu JH, Hayhoe K (2014) Understanding the sources of Caribbean precipitation biases in CMIP3 and CMIP5 simulations. Clim Dyn 42(11–12):3233–3252CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Seager R, Vecchi GA (2010) Greenhouse warming and the 21st century hydroclimate of southwestern North America. Proc Natl Acad Sci 107:21277–21282CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Seager R et al (2007) Model projections of an imminent transition to a more arid climate in southwestern North America. Science 316:1181–1184CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Seager R, Ting M, Li C, Naik N, Cook B, Nakamura J, Liu H (2012) Projections of declining surface-water availability for the southwestern United States. Nat Clim Change. doi: 10.1038/nclimate1787 Google Scholar
  50. Seneviratne SI, Nicholls N, Easterling D, Goodess CM, Kanae S, Kossin J, Luo Y, Marengo J, McInnes K, Rahimi M, Reichstein M, Sorteberg A, Vera C, Zhang X (2012) Changes in climate extremes and their impacts on the natural physical environment. In: Field CB, Barros V, Stocker TF, Qin D, Dokken DJ, Ebi KL, Mastrandrea MD, Mach KJ, Plattner G-K, Allen SK, Tignor M, Midgley PM (eds) Managing the risks of extreme events and disasters to advance climate change adaptation. A Special Report of Working Groups I and II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 109–230Google Scholar
  51. Shabbar A, Skinner W (2004) Summer drought patterns in Canada and the relationship to global sea surface temperatures. J Clim 17:2866–2880CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Sheffield J, Wood EF (2008a) Global trends and variability in soil moisture and drought characteristics, 1950–2000, from observation-driven simulations of the terrestrial hydrologic cycle. J Clim 21:432–458CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Sheffield J, Wood EF (2008b) Projected changes in drought occurrence under future global warming from multi-model, multi-scenario, IPCC AR4 simulations. Clim Dyn 31:79–105CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Sheffield J, Barrett AP, Colle B, Fernando DN, Fu R, Geil KL, Hu Q, Kinter J, Kumar S, Langenbrunner B, Lombardo K, Long LN, Maloney E, Mariotti A, Meyerson JE, Mo KC, Neelin JD, Nigam S, Pan Z, Ren T, Ruiz-Barradas A, Serra YL, Seth A, Thibeault JM, Stroeve JC, Yang Z, Yin L (2013) North American climate in CMIP5 experiments. Part I: evaluation of historical simulations of continental and regional climatology. J Clim 26:9209–9245Google Scholar
  55. Skinner WR, Stocks BJ, Martell DL, Bonsal B, Shabbar A (1999) The association between circulation anomalies in the midtroposphere and area burned by wildland fire in Canada. Theoret Appl Climatol 63:89–105CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Smith AB, Katz RW (2013) US billion-dollar weather and climate disasters: data sources, trends, accuracy and biases. Nat Hazards 67:387–410CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Sorenson LG, Goldberg R, Root TL, Anderson MG (1998) Potential effects of global warming on waterfowl populations breeding in the Northern Great Plains. Clim Change 40:343–369CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Soulé PT (1992) Spatial patterns of drought frequency and duration in the contiguous USA based on multiple drought event definitions.  Int J Climatol 12:11–24Google Scholar
  59. Stahle DW, Cook ER, Villanueva Díaz J, Fye FK, Burnette DJ, Griff RD, Acuña Soto R, Seager R, Heim RR Jr (2009) Early 21st-century drought in Mexico. EOS transactions. Am Geophys Union 90:89–90CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Stocks BJ, Mason JA, Todd JB, Bosch EM, Wotton BM, Amiro BD, Flannigan MD, Hirsch KG, Logan KA, Martell DL, Skinner WR (2003) Large forest fires in Canada, 1959–1997. J Geophys Res 108:8149. doi: 10.1029/2001JD000484 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Tebaldi C, Hayhoe K, Arblaster JM, Meehl GA (2006) Going to the extremes: an intercomparison of model-simulated historical and future changes in extreme events. Clim Change 79:185–211CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) (1992) Article 2. Accessed 12 Dec 2013
  63. Van Vuuren DP, Edmonds J, Kainuma M et al (2011) The representative concentration pathways: an overview. Clim Change 109:5–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Wang G (2005) Agricultural drought in a future climate: results from 15 global climate models participating in the IPCC 4th assessment. Clim Dyn 25:739–753CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Weigel AP, Knutti R, Liniger MA, Appenzeller C (2010) Risks of model weighting in multimodel climate projections. J Clim 23:4175–4191CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Westerling AL, Hidalgo HG, Cayan DR, Swetnam TW (2006) Warming and earlier spring increase western U.S. forest wildfire activity. Science 313:940–943CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Westra S, Alexander LV, Zwiers FW (2013) Global increasing trends in annual maximum daily precipitation. J Clim 26:3904–3918CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Wheaton EE, Arthur LM, Chorney B, Shewchuk C, Thorpe J, Whitting J, Whittrock K (1992) The prairie drought of 1988. Climatol Bull 26:188–205Google Scholar
  69. Wheaton E, Kulshreshtha S, Wittrock V, Koshida G (2008) Dry times: hard lessons from the Canadian drought of 2001 and 2002. Can Geogr 52:241–262CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Wild M, Grieser J, Schar C (2008) Combined surface solar brightening and increasing greenhouse effect support recent intensification of the global land-based hydrological cycle. Geophys Res Lett 35:L17706. doi: 10.1029/2008GL034842 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Wilhite DA, Glantz MH (1985) Understanding the drought phenomenon: the role of definitions. Water Int 10:111–120CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Wuebbles DJ, Meehl G, Hayhoe K et al (2013) CMIP5 climate 1 model analyses: climate extremes in the United States. Bull Am Meteorol Soc. doi: 10.1175/BAMS-D-12-00172.1 Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Climate Science CenterTexas Tech UniversityLubbockUSA
  2. 2.Climate Science CenterTexas Tech UniversityLubbockUSA
  3. 3.Department of Political ScienceTexas Tech UniversityLubbockUSA

Personalised recommendations