Changing climate extremes in the Northeast United States: observations and projections from CMIP5

Abstract

Climate extremes indices are evaluated for the northeast United States and adjacent Canada (Northeast) using gridded observations and twenty-three CMIP5 coupled models. Previous results have demonstrated observed increases in warm and wet extremes and decreases in cold extremes, consistent with changes expected in a warming world. Here, a significant shift is found in the distribution of observed total annual precipitation over 1981-2010. In addition, significant positive trends are seen in all observed wet precipitation indices over 1951-2010. For the Northeast region, CMIP5 models project significant shifts in the distributions of most temperature and precipitation indices by 2041-2070. By the late century, the coldest (driest) future extremes are projected to be warmer (wetter) than the warmest (wettest) extremes at present. The multimodel interquartile range compares well with observations, providing a measure of confidence in the projections in this region. Spatial analysis suggests that the largest increases in heavy precipitation extremes are projected for northern, coastal, and mountainous areas. Results suggest that the projected increase in total annual precipitation is strongly influenced by increases in winter wet extremes. The largest decreases in cold extremes are projected for northern and interior portions of the Northeast, while the largest increases in summer warm extremes are projected for densely populated southern, central, and coastal areas. This study provides a regional analysis and verification of the latest generation of CMIP global models specifically for the Northeast, useful to stakeholders focused on understanding and adapting to climate change and its impacts in the region.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6

References

  1. Alexander LV, Zhang X, Peterson TC et al (2006) J Geophys Res Atmos 111(D5):D05,109. doi:10.1029/2005JD006290

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Bonsal BR, Wheaton EE, Chipanshi AC et al (2011) Drought research in Canada: a review. Atmos Ocean 49(4):303–319. doi:10.1080/07055900.2011.555103

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Borden KA, Cutter SL (2008) Spatial patterns of natural hazards mortality in the United States. Int J Health Geogr:7. doi:10.1186/1476-072X-7-64

  4. Bourque A, Simonet G (2007) Quebec. In: Lemmen D S, Warren F J, Lacroix J, Bush E (eds) From impacts to adaptation: Canada in a changing climate. Government of Canada, pp 171–226

  5. Brooks RT (2009) Potential impacts of global climate change on the hydrology and ecology of ephemeral freshwater systems of the forests of the northeastern United States. Clim Chang 95(3–4):469–483. doi:10.1007/s10584-008-9531-9

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Brown PJ, Bradley RS, Keimig FT (2010) Changes in extreme climate indices for the Northeastern United States, 1870-2005. J Clim 23(24):6555–6572. doi:10.1175/2010JCLI3363.1

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Chiotti Q, Lavender B (2007) Ontario. In: Lemmen D S, Warren F J, Lacroix J, Bush E (eds) From impacts to adaptation: Canada in a changing climate. Government of Canada, pp 227–274

  8. Collins MJ (2009) Evidence for changing flood risk in New England since the late 20th century1. J Amer Water Resour Assoc 45(2):279–290. doi:10.1111/j.1752-1688.2008.00277.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Dee DP, Uppala SM, Simmons AJ et al (2011) The ERA-Interim reanalysis: configuration and performance of the data assimilation system. Q J R Meteorol Soc 137(656):553–597. doi:10.1002/qj.828

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. DeGaetano AT (2009) Time-dependent changes in extreme-precipitation return-period amounts in the continental United States. J Appl Meteorol Climatol 48(10):2086–2099. doi:10.1175/2009JAMC2179.1

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Donat MG, Alexander LV, Yang H et al (2013) Updated analyses of temperature and precipitation extreme indices since the beginning of the twentieth century: the HadEX2 dataset. J Geophys Res Atmos 118(5):2098–2118. doi:10.1002/jgrd.50150

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Duffy P, Tebaldi C (2012) Increasing prevalence of extreme summer temperatures in the U.S. Clim Chang 111(2):487–495. doi:10.1007/s10584-012-0396-6

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Easterling DR, Meehl GA, Parmesan C et al (2000) Climate extremes: observations, modeling, and impacts. Science 289(5487):2068–2074. doi:10.1126/science.289.5487.2068

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Frich P, Alexander LV, Della-Marta P et al (2002) Observed coherent changes in climatic extremes during the second half of the twentieth century. Clim Res 19:193–212

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Griffiths ML, Bradley RS (2007) Variations of twentieth-century temperature and precipitation extreme indicators in the northeast United States. J Clim 20(21):5401–5417. doi:10.1175/2007JCLI1594.1

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Groisman PY, Knight RW, Easterling DR et al (2005) Trends in intense precipitation in the climate record. J Clim 18(9):1326–1350

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Groleau A, Mailhot A, Talbot G (2007) Trend analysis of winter rainfall over Southern Quebec and New Brunswick (Canada). Atmos Ocean 45(3):153–162. doi:10.3137/ao.450303

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Hayhoe K, Wake CP, Huntington TG et al (2007) Past and future changes in climate and hydrological indicators in the US Northeast. Clim Dyn 28(4):381–407. doi:10.1007/s00382-006-0187-8

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Hayhoe K, Wake C, Anderson B et al (2008) Regional climate change projections for the Northeast USA. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Chang 13(5–6):425–436. doi:10.1007/s11027-007-9133-2

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Hodgkins GA, Dudley RW (2011) Historical summer base flow and stormflow trends for New England rivers. Water Resour Res:47. doi:10.1029/2010WR009109

  21. Horton R, Yohe G, Easterling WE, Kates R, Ruth M, Sussman E, Whelchel A, Wolfe D (2013) Northeast. In: National climate assessment, U.S. global change research program, chap 16

  22. Horton RM, Gornitz V, Bader DA et al (2011) Climate hazard assessment for stakeholder adaptation planning in New York City. J Appl Meteorol Climatol 50(11):2247–2266. doi:10.1175/2011JAMC2521.1

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Insaf TZ, Lin S, Sheridan SC (2013) Climate trends in indices for temperature and precipitation across New York State, 1948-2008. Air Qual Atmos Health 6(1):247–257. doi:10.1007/s11869-011-0168-x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Kharin V, Zwiers F (2000) Changes in the extremes in an ensemble of transient climate simulations with a coupled atmosphere-ocean GCM. J Clim 13(21):3760–3788. doi:10.1175/1520-0442(2000)013<3760:CITEIA>2.0.CO;2

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Kharin V, Zwiers F, Zhang X, Wehner M (2013) Changes in temperature and precipitation extremes in the CMIP5 ensemble. Clim Chang:1–13. doi:10.1007/s10584-013-0705-8

  26. Kharin VV, Zwiers FW, Zhang XB, Hegerl GC (2007) Changes in temperature and precipitation extremes in the IPCC ensemble of global coupled model simulations. J Clim 20(8):1419–1444

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Kunkel K, Stevens L, Stevens S et al (2013) Regional climate trends and scenarios for the U.S. National Climate Assessment. Part1. Climate of the Northeast U.S. Tech. Rep. NESDIS 142-1, U.S. Department of Commerce National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

  28. Lynch C, Seth A (2014) On the Northeast United States annual cycle from CMIP5, in preparation

  29. Maloney E, Camargo S, Chang E et al (2013) North American climate in CMIP5 experiments: Part III: Assessment of 21st century projections. J Clim 27:2230–2270

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Meehl GA, Covey C, Taylor KE et al (2007) The WCRP CMIP3 multimodel dataset: a new era in climate change research. Bull Amer Meteorol Soc 88(9):1383–1394. doi:10.1175/BAMS-88-9-1383

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Moss RH, Edmonds JA, Hibbard KA et al (2010) The next generation of scenarios for climate change research and assessment. Nature 463(7282):747–756

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. O’Gorman PA, Schneider T (2009) The physical basis for increases in precipitation extremes in simulations of 21st-century climate change. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 106(35):14,773–14,777. doi:10.1073/pnas.0907610106

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Ouellet C, Saint-Laurent D, Normand F (2012) Flood events and flood risk assessment in relation to climate and land-use changes: Saint-Francois River, southern Quebec, Canada. Hydrol Sci J J des Sci Hydrologiques 57(2):313–325. doi:10.1080/02626667.2011.645475

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Peterson TC, Heim RR, Hirsch R et al (2013) Monitoring and understanding changes in heat waves, cold waves, floods and droughts in the United States: State of knowledge. Bull Amer Meteorol Soc. doi:10.1175/BAMS-D-12-00066.1

  35. Peterson TC, Zhang X, Brunet-India M, Vazquez-Aguirre JL (2008) Changes in North American extremes derived from daily weather data. J Geophys Res Atmos 113(D7). doi:10.1029/2007JD009453

  36. Qian B, Gameda S, Zhang X, De Jong R (2012) Changing growing season observed in Canada. Clim Chang 112(2):339–353. doi:10.1007/s10584-011-0220-8

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Scoccimarro E, Gualdi S, Bellucci A et al (2013) Heavy precipitation events in a warmer climate: results from CMIP5 models. J Clim 26(20):7902–7911. doi:10.1175/JCLI-D-12-00850.1

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Sheffield J, Barrett A P, Colle B et al (2013) North American climate in CMIP5 experiments. Part I: evaluation of historical simulations of continental and regional climatology. J Clim 26(23):9209–9245. doi:10.1175/JCLI-D-12-00592.1

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Sillmann J, Kharin VV, Zhang X et al (2013a) Climate extremes indices in the CMIP5 multimodel ensemble: Part 1. model evaluation in the present climate. J Geophys Res Atmos 118(4):1716–1733. doi:10.1002/jgrd.50203

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Sillmann J, Kharin VV, Zwiers FW et al (2013b) Climate extremes indices in the CMIP5 multimodel ensemble: Part 2. future climate projections. J Geophys Res Atmos 118(6):2473–2493. doi:10.1002/jgrd.50188

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Taylor KE, Stouffer RJ, Meehl GA (2012) An overview of CMIP5 and the experiment design. Bull Amer Meteorol Soc 93(4):485–498. doi:10.1175/BAMS-D-11-00094.1

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Tebaldi C, Hayhoe K, Arblaster JM, Meehl GA (2006) Going to the extremes. Clim Chang 79(3–4):185–211. doi:10.1007/s10584-006-9051-4

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Trenberth KE, Fasullo JT (2013) North American water and energy cycles. Geophys Res Lett 40(2):365–369. doi:10.1002/grl.50107

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Vincent L, Mekis E (2006) Changes in daily and extreme temperature and precipitation indices for Canada over the twentieth century. Atmos Ocean 44(2):177–193. doi:10.3137/ao.440205

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. van Vliet MTH, Yearsley JR, Ludwig F et al (2012) Vulnerability of US and European electricity supply to climate change. Nat Clim Chang 2(9):676–681

    Google Scholar 

  46. Yagouti A, Boulet G, Vincent L et al (2008) Observed changes in daily temperature and precipitation indices for southern Quebec, 1960-2005. Atmos Ocean 46(2):243–256. doi:10.3137/ao.460204

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Zhang X, Alexander L, Hegerl GC et al (2011) Indices for monitoring changes in extremes based on daily temperature and precipitation data. Wiley Interdisc Rev Clim Chang 2(6):851–870. doi:10.1002/wcc.147

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

We appreciate the thoughtful comments of three anonymous reviewers, which helped to improve this manuscript. We acknowledge the World Climate Research Programme’s Working Group on Coupled Modelling, which is responsible for CMIP, and thank the climate modeling groups (see Supplementary Table 2 of Supplementary Material) for producing and making available their model output. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison provides coordinating support and led development of software infrastructure in partnership with the Global Organization for Earth System Science Portals. We also acknowledge the ETCCDI extremes indices archive at Environment Canada for computing indices for ERA-interim and the CMIP5 models used in this study. We would also like to thank the CLIMDEX project for making the HadEX2 data available at http://www.climdex.org through the WMO ETCCDI, Linkage Project LP100200690. This research was funded by NSF CAREER Award # 1056216.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jeanne M. Thibeault.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

(PDF 3.71 MB)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Thibeault, J.M., Seth, A. Changing climate extremes in the Northeast United States: observations and projections from CMIP5. Climatic Change 127, 273–287 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-014-1257-2

Download citation

Keywords

  • Climate extremes
  • Northeast
  • CMIP5
  • ETCCDI
  • HadEX2