Ambient factors controlling the wintertime precipitation distribution across mountain ranges in the interior western United States. Part II: Changes in orographic precipitation distribution in a pseudo-global warming simulation

Xiaoqin Jing, Bart Geerts, Yonggang Wang, Changhai Liu

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Abstract

Two high-resolution (4 km) regional climate simulations over a 10-yr period are conducted to study the changes in wintertime precipitation distribution across mountain ranges in the interior western United States (IWUS) in a warming climate. One simulation represents the current climate, and another represents an ~2050 climate using a pseudo-global warming approach. The climate perturbations are derived from the ensemble mean of 15 global climate models from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5). These simulations provide an estimate of average changes in wintertime orographic precipitation enhancement and finescale distribution across mountain ranges. The variability in these changes among CMIP5 models is quantified using statistical downscaling relations between orographic precipitation distribution and upstream conditions, developed in Part I. The CMIP5 guidance indicates a robust warming signal (~2K) over the IWUS by ;2050 but minor changes in relative humidity and cloud-base height. The IWUS simulations reveal a widespread increase in precipitation on account of higher precipitation rates during winter storms in this warmer climate. This precipitation increase is most significant over the mountains rather than on the surrounding plains. The increase in precipitation rate is largely due to an increase in low-level cross-mountain moisture transport. The application of the statistical relations indicates that individual CMIP5 models disagree about the magnitude and distribution of orographic precipitation change in the IWUS, although most agree with the ensemble-mean-predicted orographic precipitation increase.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)695-715
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology
Volume58
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1 2019

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Keywords

  • North America
  • Orographic effects
  • Orographic effects
  • Orographic effects

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