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On the twenty-first-century wet season projections over the Southeastern United States

Abstract

This paper reconciles the difference in the projections of the wet season over the Southeastern United States (SEUS) from a global climate model (the Community Climate System Model Version 3 [CCSM3]) and from a regional climate model (the Regional Spectral Model [RSM]) nested in the CCSM3. The CCSM3 projects a dipole in the summer precipitation anomaly: peninsular Florida dries in the future climate, and the remainder of the SEUS region becomes wetter. The RSM forced with CCSM3 projects a universal drying of the SEUS in the late twenty-first century relative to the corresponding twentieth-century summer. The CCSM3 pattern is attributed to the “upped-ante” mechanism, whereby the atmospheric boundary layer moisture required for convection increases in a warm, statically stable global tropical environment. This criterion becomes harder to meet along convective margins, which include peninsular Florida, resulting in its drying. CCSM3 also projects a southwestward expansion of the North Atlantic subtropical high that leads to further stabilizing of the atmosphere above Florida, inhibiting convection. The RSM, because of its high (10-km grid) resolution, simulates diurnal variations in summer rainfall over SEUS reasonably well. The RSM improves upon CCSM3 through the RSM’s depiction of the diurnal variance of precipitation, which according to observations accounts for up to 40 % of total seasonal precipitation variance. In the future climate, the RSM projects a significant reduction in the diurnal variability of convection. The reduction is attributed to large-scale stabilization of the atmosphere in the CCSM3 projections.

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Acknowledgments

We acknowledge the editorial assistance of Kathy Fearon of COAPS, FSU. This study was supported by grants from NOAA (NA07OAR4310221), USDA (027865), and USGS (06HQGR0125).

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Correspondence to Christopher Selman.

Appendix

Appendix

The surface lifted index (SFI) is a measure of atmospheric stability. It is defined as the difference between the environmental air temperature at 500 mb and the temperature a parcel of air will achieve if lifted dry adiabatically to its lifting condensation level (LCL) and then lifted moist adiabatically to 500 mb. Positive values of SFI are considered to be stable, and negative values are considered unstable.

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Selman, C., Misra, V., Stefanova, L. et al. On the twenty-first-century wet season projections over the Southeastern United States. Reg Environ Change 13 (Suppl 1), 153–164 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-013-0477-8

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-013-0477-8

Keywords

  • Regional climate change
  • Southeast United States
  • Rainfall variability
  • Regional climate model
  • Global climate model
  • Precipitation variability