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Interpreting the inter-model spread in regional precipitation projections in the tropics: role of surface evaporation and cloud radiative effects

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Abstract

In this study, we investigate and quantify different contributors to inter-model differences in regional precipitation projections among CMIP5 climate models. Contributors to the spread are very contrasted between land and ocean. While circulation changes dominate the spread over oceans and continental coasts, thermodynamic changes associated with water vapor increase dominate over inland regions. The inter-model spread in the dynamic component is associated with the change in atmospheric radiative cooling with warming, which largely relates to atmospheric cloud radiative effects. Differences in the thermodynamic component result from the differences in the change in surface evaporation that is explained by decreases in surface humidity and limited surface water availability over land. Secondary contributions to the inter-model spread in thermodynamic and dynamic components result respectively from present-day climatology (owing to the Clausius–Clapeyron scaling) and from the shape of the vertical velocity profile associated with changes in surface temperature gradients. Advancing the physical understanding of the cloud-circulation and precipitation-evaporation couplings and improving their representation in climate models may stand the best chance to reduce uncertainty in regional precipitation projections.

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Notes

  1. Fifth Phase of the Coupled Models Inter-comparison Project.

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Acknowledgments

This work was supported by the ClimaConf (ANR-10-CEPL-003) and the Isotropic (ANR-12-BS06-001) ANR projects. We acknowledge the World Climate Research Programme’s Working Group on Coupled Modelling, which is responsible for CMIP, and we thank the climate modeling groups (listed in Table 1 of this paper) for producing and making available their model output. We also thank the two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.

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Correspondence to Boutheina Oueslati.

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Oueslati, B., Bony, S., Risi, C. et al. Interpreting the inter-model spread in regional precipitation projections in the tropics: role of surface evaporation and cloud radiative effects. Clim Dyn 47, 2801–2815 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00382-016-2998-6

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00382-016-2998-6

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