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The impacts of a warming climate on winter mid-latitude cyclones in the NARCCAP model suite

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Abstract

The North American Regional Climate Change Assessment Program (NARCCAP) represents the next step in investigating the behavior of weather phenomena in current and future climate. Specifically, variations in mid-latitude cyclone tracks attributable to a warming climate have potential socio-economic consequences via the redistribution of precipitation on regional spatial scales. This manuscript assesses the impacts of a warming climate on cyclone tracks in the NARCCAP model suite. Specifically, cyclones are generated from eight 33-year simulations for the twentieth Century (1968–2000) and eight 33-year simulations for the A2 greenhouse scenario (2068–2100). To provide comparison, cyclone tracks are also generated from the Climate Forecast System Reanalysis (CFSR) and ERA Interim (ERA_INT) reanalysis datasets from 1979 to 2016. The results support that the NARCCAP model suite is capable of producing a reasonable cyclone frequency and intensity climatology when compared with the reanalysis datasets. Comparison of the ensemble twentieth Century cyclone (20C) tracks with the ensemble A2 cyclone tracks demonstrate a zonally-oriented poleward shift in cyclone track frequency in response to a warming climate. Intensity differences were regionally oriented, with cyclones being more intense in the A2 relative to the twentieth Century scenarios west of the Appalachians, suggesting cyclones acquire greater latent heat from warmer western Atlantic/Gulf of Mexico moisture sources in A2. A sector analysis revealed a higher total frequency of cyclones in both reanalysis datasets relative to either NARCCAP scenario. For intense cyclones, the NARCCAP model simulations produced more frequent cyclones in the Great Lakes and East Coast sectors. In contrast, reanalysis produced a higher frequency of weak cyclones for all sectors except Atlantic Canada. In addition, NARCCAP simulations were found to be capable of reproducing the broadness of intensity distributions in the reanalysis datasets, likely due to the fine spatial gridding in the NARCCAP models. Sector analysis for frequency and intensity affirmed the ensemble results, with individual model simulations showed a reduction in frequency for all sectors except the Canadian Maritimes for A2 relative to 20C. For intensity, cyclones were once again overall more intense for the upper Midwest/Great Lakes sector for A2 relative to 20C. The results of this research demonstrates the ability for regional climate models to be used to assess changes in synoptic-scale phenomena in a warming climate. Future work will focus on assessing cyclone structure including changes in moisture transport, precipitation, and the low-level jet.

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Acknowledgement

The author wishes to thank Dr. Patrick Market from the University of Missouri for reviewing the manuscript and providing commentary.

Funding

This work was supported by the United States NSF EPSCoR Grant Award IIA-1355406. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of NSF.

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Correspondence to Timothy Paul Eichler.

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Eichler, T.P. The impacts of a warming climate on winter mid-latitude cyclones in the NARCCAP model suite. Clim Dyn 54, 4379–4398 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00382-020-05236-z

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