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Keywords:

  • anthropogenic forcing;
  • precipitation trends;
  • seasonal

[1] Climate models predict substantial changes in seasonal precipitation in the future. Anthropogenic forcing has been found to contribute to the observed pattern of land precipitation change over the 2nd half of the 20th century when annual precipitation is averaged within latitude bands, the observed change was substantially larger than response simulated in climate models, based on a single observational dataset. Here we investigate the robustness of this finding using several land only observational datasets and look for an explanation for why observed changes are significantly larger. We show the discrepancy between model simulated and observed trends is reduced when changes are expressed as percent climatology, which reduces the difference in scale between observed point locations and model gridboxes. Focusing on seasonal rather than annual data reveals that there are seasonal differences in the pattern of zonal precipitation changes over the 20th century. We use fingerprint for zonal precipitation changes from 54 CMIP3 simulations and show that observed changes are detectable in all seasons but boreal summer (JJA), even when doubling the variance of the model simulation, and irrespective of the dataset used. The observed change is still larger than that simulated by the multi-model mean in all datasets except in boreal summer but only in boreal spring is the observed change robustly and significantly larger than that simulated.