Evaluation of present and future North American Regional Climate Change Assessment Program (NARCCAP) regional climate simulations over the southeast United States

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Abstract

[1] In order to make well-informed decisions in response to future climate change, officials and the public require reliable climate projections at the scale of tens of kilometers, rather than the hundreds of kilometers that the current atmosphere–ocean general circulation models provide. Recent efforts such as the North American Regional Climate Change Assessment Program (NARCCAP) aim to address this need. This study has two principal aims: (1) evaluate the seasonal performance of the NARCCAP simulations over the southeast United States for both present (1971–2000) and future (2041–2070) periods and (2) assess the impact of a performance-based weighting scheme on bias and uncertainty. Application of the weighting scheme results in a substantial reduction in magnitude and percent area exhibiting significant bias in all seasons for both temperature and precipitation. The weighting scheme is then expanded to evaluate future change. Temperature changes are universally positive and outside the bounds of natural variability over the entire region and in all seasons. Application of the weighting scheme tightens confidence intervals by as much as 1.6°C. Future precipitation changes are modest, are of mixed sign, and vary by season and location. Though uncertainty is reduced by as much as 50%, the projected changes are generally not outside the bounds of natural background variability. Thus, under the NARCCAP simulations, stress on water resources is most likely to come from increased temperatures and not changes in mean seasonal precipitation. For energy use, the implication is that the ∼3°C temperature increase during the peak use summer season may place additional strain on power grids.

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