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Continental-scale convection-permitting modeling of the current and future climate of North America

Abstract

Orographic precipitation and snowpack provide a vital water resource for the western U.S., while convective precipitation accounts for a significant part of annual precipitation in the eastern U.S. As a result, water managers are keenly interested in their fate under climate change. However, previous studies of water cycle changes in the U.S. have been conducted with climate models of relatively coarse resolution, leading to potential misrepresentation of key physical processes. This paper presents results from a high-resolution climate change simulation that permits convection and resolves mesoscale orography at 4-km grid spacing over much of North America using the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model. Two 13-year simulations were performed, consisting of a retrospective simulation (October 2000–September 2013) with initial and boundary conditions from ERA-interim and a future climate sensitivity simulation with modified reanalysis-derived initial and boundary conditions through adding the CMIP5 ensemble-mean high-end emission scenario climate change. The retrospective simulation is evaluated by validating against Snowpack Telemetry (SNOTEL) and an ensemble of gridded observational datasets. It shows overall good performance capturing the annual/seasonal/sub-seasonal precipitation and surface temperature climatology except for a summer dry and warm bias in the central U.S. In particular, the WRF seasonal precipitation agrees with SNOTEL observations within a few percent over the mountain ranges, providing confidence in the model’s estimation of western U.S. seasonal snowfall and snowpack. The future climate simulation forced with warmer and moister perturbed boundary conditions enhances annual and winter-spring-fall seasonal precipitation over most of the contiguous United States (CONUS), but suppresses summertime precipitation in the central U.S. The WRF-downscaled climate change simulations provide a high-resolution dataset (i.e., High-Resolution CONUS downscaling, HRCONUS) to the community for studying one possible scenario of regional climate changes and impacts.

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Acknowledgments

We are grateful to Mr. Zhe Zhang for graphical assistance, and Dr. James Done and Stan Trier and two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments. We would like to acknowledge high-performance computing support from Yellowstone (ark:/85065/d7wd3xhc) provided by NCAR’s Computational and Information Systems Laboratory’s NCAR Strategic Capability allocation, sponsored by the National Science Foundation. This work was supported by the National Science Foundation under the NCAR Water System Program.

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Correspondence to Changhai Liu.

Appendix

Appendix

Data management plan

All WRF simulation output is created in netCDF output and stored on NCAR’s High Performance Storage System (HPSS). A number of post-processed datasets were created for ease of access and comparison, especially numerous 2D variables that will reduce the volume of data, transfer times to other computers, and analysis time compared to the full WRF files. The authors request that anyone interested in using this data contact the lead authors of this paper for information on how to access the data, including any collaboration.

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Liu, C., Ikeda, K., Rasmussen, R. et al. Continental-scale convection-permitting modeling of the current and future climate of North America. Clim Dyn 49, 71–95 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00382-016-3327-9

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Keywords

  • Convection-permitting
  • Regional climate simulation
  • Water cycle
  • Pseudo global warming