Reprint 2014-3

Climate change impacts on extreme events in the United States: an uncertainty analysis

by Monier, E., X. Gao
Climatic Change, online first, doi: 10.1007/s10584-013-1048-1, 2014

(Supersedes Report 245)


In this study, we analyze changes in extreme temperature and precipitation over the US in a 60-member ensemble simulation of the 21st century with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Integrated Global System Model–Community Atmosphere Model (IGSM-CAM). Four values of climate sensitivity, three emissions scenarios and five initial conditions are considered. The results show a general intensification and an increase in the frequency of extreme hot temperatures and extreme precipitation events over most of the US. Extreme cold temperatures are projected to decrease in intensity and frequency, especially over the northern parts of the US. This study displays a wide range of future changes in extreme events in the US, even simulated by a single climate model. Results clearly show that the choice of policy is the largest source of uncertainty in the magnitude of the changes. The impact of the climate sensitivity is largest for the unconstrained emissions scenario and the implementation of a stabilization scenario drastically reduces the changes in extremes, even for the highest climate sensitivity considered. Finally, simulations with different initial conditions show conspicuously different patterns and magnitudes of changes in extreme events, underlining the role of natural variability in projections of changes in extreme events.

© 2014 the authors

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