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Regional climate projections of mean and extreme climate for the southwest of Western Australia (1970–1999 compared to 2030–2059)

Abstract

Projections of future climate change (1970–1999 compared to 2030–2059) for southwest Western Australia (SWWA) are analysed for a regional climate model (RCM) ensemble using the Weather Research and Forecasting Model with boundary conditions from three CMIP3 general circulation models (GCMs); CCSM3, CSIROmk3.5 and ECHAM5. We show that the RCM adds value to the GCM and we suggest that this is through improved representation of regional scale topography and enhanced land–atmosphere interactions. Our results show that the mean daytime temperature increase is larger than the nighttime increase, attributed to reduced soil moisture and hence increased surface sensible heat flux in the model, and there is statistically significant evidence that the variance of minimum temperatures will increase. Changes in summer rainfall are uncertain, with some models showing rainfall increases and others projecting reductions. All models show very large fluctuations in summer rainfall intensity which has important implications because of the increased risk of flash flooding and erosion of arable land. There is model consensus indicating a decline in winter rainfall and the spatial distribution of this rainfall decline is influenced by regional scale topography in two of the three simulations. Winter rainfall reduction is consistent with the historical trend of declining rainfall in SWWA, which has been attributed in previous research to a reduction in the number of fronts passing over the region. The continuation of this trend is evident in all models by an increase in winter mean sea level pressure in SWWA, and a reduced number of winter front days. Winter rainfall does not show any marked variations in daily intensity.

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Acknowledgments

This research was supported by an Australian Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Grant (MCV0013). Julia Andrys is supported by an Australian Postgraduate Award and a GRDC Top Up Scholarship. Jatin Kala was supported by the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Climate Systems Science (CE110001028) for part of this work. The research group lead by Associate Professor Jason Evans at the University of New South Wales, Australia, provided the modified version of WRFv3.3 used in this study, and assisted in the pre-processing of the input data. Dr. Ruth Lorenz from the University of New South Wales provided the scripts to account for serial correlation in t tests. Computational modeling was supported by the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre with funding from the Australian Government and the Government of Western Australia. It was funded under the National Computational Merit Allocation Scheme and the Pawsey Partner Allocation Scheme. All of this support is gratefully acknowledged.

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Andrys, J., Kala, J. & Lyons, T.J. Regional climate projections of mean and extreme climate for the southwest of Western Australia (1970–1999 compared to 2030–2059). Clim Dyn 48, 1723–1747 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00382-016-3169-5

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Keywords

  • Regional climate modelling
  • WRF
  • Western Australia