Regional climate model downscaling of the U.S. summer climate and future change



[1] A mesoscale model (MM5)–based regional climate model (CMM5) integration driven by the Parallel Climate Model (PCM), a fully coupled atmosphere-ocean-land-ice general circulation model (GCM), for the present (1986–1995) summer season climate is first compared with observations to study the CMM5's downscaling skill and uncertainty over the United States. The results indicate that the CMM5, with its finer resolution (30 km) and more comprehensive physics, simulates the present U.S. climate more accurately than the driving PCM, especially for precipitation, including summer mean patterns, diurnal cycles, and daily frequency distributions. Hence the CMM5 downscaling provides a credible means to improve GCM climate simulations. A parallel CMM5 integration driven by the PCM future (2041–2050) projection is then analyzed to determine the downscaling impact on regional climate changes. It is shown that the CMM5 generates climate change patterns very different from those predicted by the driving PCM. A key difference is a summer “warming hole” over the central United States in the CMM5 relative to the PCM. This study shows that the CMM5 downscaling can significantly reduce GCM biases in simulating the present climate and that this improvement has important consequences for future projections of regional climate changes. For both the present and future climate simulations, the CMM5 results are sensitive to the cumulus parameterization, with strong regional dependence. The deficiency in representing convection is likely the major reason for the PCM's unrealistic simulation of U.S. precipitation patterns and perhaps also for its large warming in the central United States.