Current and future impacts of extreme events in California
In the next few decades, it is likely that California must face the challenge of coping with increased impacts from extreme events such as heat waves, wildfires, droughts, and floods. This study presents new projections of changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme events in the future across climate models, emissions scenarios, and downscaling methods, and for each California county. Consistent with other projections, this study finds significant increases in the frequency and magnitude of both high maximum and high minimum temperature extremes in many areas. For example, the frequency of extreme temperatures currently estimated to occur once every 100 years is projected to increase by at least ten-fold in many regions of California, even under a moderate emissions scenario. Under a higher emissions scenario, these temperatures are projected to occur close to annually in most regions. Also, consistent with other projections, analyses of precipitation extremes fail to detect a significant signal of change, with inconsistent behavior when comparing simulations across different GCMs and different downscaling methods.
KeywordsReturn Period Extreme Event Emission Scenario Precipitation Extreme Return Level
We thank Scripps Institute of Oceanography (in particular Mary Tyree) and the Public Interest Energy Research Program for making data and model simulations available for these analyses. We deeply thank John Pfefferle for his invaluable help in preparing this paper, and David Lobell and Gregor Horstmeyer for useful discussions and input. We also thank all the researchers we have consulted for information on their research, which has formed the basis for our summary of current understanding of the impacts of extreme events on California.
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