Future climate change impacts depend on temperatures not only through changes in their means but also through changes in their variability. General circulation models (GCMs) predict changes in both means and variability; however, GCM output should not be used directly as simulations for impacts assessments because GCMs do not fully reproduce present-day temperature distributions. This paper addresses an ensuing need for simulations of future temperatures that combine both the observational record and GCM projections of changes in means and temporal covariances. Our perspective is that such simulations should be based on transforming observations to account for GCM projected changes, in contrast to methods that transform GCM output to account for discrepancies with observations. Our methodology is designed for simulating transient (non-stationary) climates, which are evolving in response to changes in CO2 concentrations (as is the Earth at present). This work builds on previously described methods for simulating equilibrium (stationary) climates. Since the proposed simulation relies on GCM projected changes in covariance, we describe a statistical model for the evolution of temporal covariances in a GCM under future forcing scenarios, and apply this model to an ensemble of runs from one GCM, CCSM3. We find that, at least in CCSM3, changes in the local covariance structure can be explained as a function of the regional mean change in temperature and the rate of change of warming. This feature means that the statistical model can be used to emulate the evolving covariance structure of GCM temperatures under scenarios for which the GCM has not been run. When combined with an emulator for mean temperature, our methodology can simulate evolving temperatures under such scenarios, in a way that accounts for projections of changes while still retaining fidelity with the observational record.
Areas of Focus: Climate Change
, Climate Science
Climate change is an urgent global challenge. EPIC research is helping to assess its impacts, quantify its costs, and identify an efficient set of policies to reduce emissions and adapt...
EPIC’s interdisciplinary team of researchers is contributing to a cross-cutting body of knowledge on the scientific causes of climate change and its social consequences.