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Probabilistic Projections of Anthropogenic Climate Change Impacts on Precipitation for the Mid-Atlantic Region of the United States

Publication TypeManual Entry
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsNing, Liang, Michael E. Mann, Robert Crane, Thorsten Wagener, Raymond G. Najjar, Jr., and Riddhi Singh
Date PublishedAUG 1
Place Published45 BEACON ST, BOSTON, MA 02108-3693 USA
Type of ArticleArticle

This study uses an empirical downscaling method based on self-organizing maps (SOMs) to produce high-resolution, downscaled precipitation projections over the state of Pennsylvania in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States for the future period 2046-65. To examine the sensitivity of precipitation change to the water vapor increase brought by global warming, the authors test the following two approaches to downscaling: one uses the specific humidity in the downscaling algorithm and the other does not. Application of the downscaling procedure to the general circulation model (GCM) projections reveals changes in the relative occupancy, but not the fundamental nature, of the simulated synoptic circulation states. Both downscaling approaches predict increases in annual and winter precipitation, consistent in sign with the ``raw{''} output from the GCMs but considerably smaller in magnitude. For summer precipitation, larger discrepancies are seen between raw and downscaled GCM projections, with a substantial dependence on the downscaling version used (downscaled precipitation changes employing specific humidity are smaller than those without it). Application of downscaling generally reduces the inter-GCM uncertainties, suggesting that some of the spread among models in the raw projected precipitation may result from differences in precipitation parameterization schemes rather than fundamentally different climate responses. Projected changes in the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) are found to be significantly related to changes in winter precipitation in the downscaled results, but not for the raw GCM results, suggesting that the downscaling more effectively captures the influence of climate dynamics on projected changes in winter precipitation.

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