Probabilistic projections of anthropogenic climate change impacts on precipitation for the mid-Atlantic region of the United States

Liang Ning, Michael E. Mann, Robert Crane, Thorsten Wagener, Raymond G. Najjar, Riddhi Singh

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29 Scopus citations


This study uses an empirical downscaling method based on self-organizing maps (SOMs) to produce high- resolution, downscaled precipitation projections over the state of Pennsylvania in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States for the future period 2046-65. To examine the sensitivity of precipitation change to the water vapor increase brought by global warming, the authors test the following two approaches to down- scaling: one uses the specific humidity in the downscaling algorithm and the other does not. Application of the downscaling procedure to the general circulation model (GCM) projections reveals changes in the relative occupancy, but not the fundamental nature, of the simulated synoptic circulation states. Both downscaling approaches predict increases in annual and winter precipitation, consistent in sign with the "raw" output from the GCMs but considerably smaller in magnitude. For summer precipitation, larger discrepancies are seen between raw and downscaled GCM projections, with a substantial dependence on the downscaling version used (downscaled precipitation changes employing specific humidity are smaller than those without it). Application of downscaling generally reduces the inter-GCM uncertainties, suggesting that some of the spread among models in the raw projected precipitation may result from differences in precipitation pa- rameterization schemes rather than fundamentally different climate responses. Projected changes in the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) are found to be significantly related to changes in winter precipitation in the downscaled results, but not for the raw GCM results, suggesting that the downscaling more effectively captures the influence of climate dynamics on projected changes in winter precipitation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5273-5291
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number15
StatePublished - Aug 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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