Geophysical Research Letters

Persisting cold extremes under 21st-century warming scenarios

Authors

  • Evan Kodra,

    1. Computational Science and Engineering Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, USA
    2. Department of Statistics, Operations, and Management Science, University of Tennessee at Knoxville, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA
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  • Karsten Steinhaeuser,

    1. Computational Science and Engineering Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, USA
    2. Department of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana, USA
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  • Auroop R. Ganguly

    1. Computational Science and Engineering Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, USA
    2. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Tennessee at Knoxville, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA
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Abstract

[1] Analyses of climate model simulations and observations reveal that extreme cold events are likely to persist across each land-continent even under 21st-century warming scenarios. The grid-based intensity, duration and frequency of cold extreme events are calculated annually through three indices: the coldest annual consecutive three-day average of daily maximum temperature, the annual maximum of consecutive frost days, and the total number of frost days. Nine global climate models forced with a moderate greenhouse-gas emissions scenario compares the indices over 2091–2100 versus 1991–2000. The credibility of model-simulated cold extremes is evaluated through both bias scores relative to reanalysis data in the past and multi-model agreement in the future. The number of times the value of each annual index in 2091–2100 exceeds the decadal average of the corresponding index in 1991–2000 is counted. The results indicate that intensity and duration of grid-based cold extremes, when viewed as a global total, will often be as severe as current typical conditions in many regions, but the corresponding frequency does not show this persistence. While the models agree on the projected persistence of cold extremes in terms of global counts, regionally, inter-model variability and disparity in model performance tends to dominate. Our findings suggest that, despite a general warming trend, regional preparedness for extreme cold events cannot be compromised even towards the end of the century.

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