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Keywords:

  • general circulation models;
  • sea level pressure;
  • Europe;
  • circulation type classification;
  • atmospheric circulation;
  • precipitation;
  • temperature

ABSTRACT

Future climate change projections are not limited to a simple warming, but changes in precipitation and sea level pressure (SLP) are also projected. The SLP changes and the associated atmospheric circulation changes could directly mitigate or enhance potential projected changes in temperature and precipitation associated with rising temperatures. With the aim of analysing the projected circulation changes and their possible impacts on temperature and precipitation over Europe in summer [June–July–August (JJA)], we apply an automatic circulation type classification method, based on daily SLP, on general circulation model (GCM) outputs from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 5 (CMIP5) database over the historical period (1951–2005) and for climate under two future scenarios (2006–2100). We focus on summer as it is the season when changes in temperature and precipitation have the highest impact on human health and agriculture. Over the historical observed reference period (1960–1999), our results show that most of the GCMs have significant biases over Europe when compared to reanalysis data sets, both for simulating the observed circulation types and their frequencies, as well as for reproducing the intraclass means of the studied variables. The future projections suggest a decrease of circulation types favouring a low centred over the British Isles for the benefit of more anticyclonic conditions. These circulation changes mitigate the projected precipitation increase over north-western Europe in summer, but they do not significantly affect the projected temperature increase and the precipitation decrease over the Mediterranean region and eastern Europe. However, the circulation changes and the associated precipitation changes are tarnished by a high uncertainty among the GCM projections.