Co-variation of temperature and precipitation in CMIP5 models and satellite observations



[1] Current variability of precipitation (P) and its response to surface temperature (T) are analysed using coupled (CMIP5) and atmosphere-only (AMIP5) climate model simulations and compared with observational estimates. There is striking agreement between Global Precipitation Climatology Project (GPCP) observed and AMIP5 simulated P anomalies over land both globally and in the tropics suggesting that prescribed sea surface temperature and realistic radiative forcings are sufficient for simulating the interannual variability in continental P. Differences between the observed and simulated P variability over the ocean, originate primarily from the wet tropical regions, in particular the western Pacific, but are reduced slightly after 1995. All datasets show positive responses of P to T globally of around 2%/K for simulations and 3–4%/K in GPCP observations but model responses over the tropical oceans are around 3 times smaller than GPCP over the period 1988–2005. The observed anticorrelation between land and ocean P, linked with El Niño Southern Oscillation, is captured by the simulations. All data sets over the tropical ocean show a tendency for wet regions to become wetter and dry regions drier with warming. Over the wet region (≥75% precipitation percentile), the precipitation response is ∼13–15%/K for GPCP and ∼5%/K for models while trends in P are 2.4%/decade for GPCP, 0.6% /decade for CMIP5 and 0.9%/decade for AMIP5 suggesting that models are underestimating the precipitation responses or a deficiency exists in the satellite datasets.