Projected Changes in Climate Extremes over the Northeastern United States
Projections of historical and future changes in climate extremes are examined by applying the bias-correction spatial disaggregation (BCSD) statistical downscaling method to five general circulation models (GCMs) from the new Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5). Eleven extreme temperature and precipitation indices that are relevant across multiple disciplines (e.g., agriculture and conservation) are chosen for this analysis. Over the historical period, the simulated means, variances, and cumulative distribution functions (CDFs) of each of the eleven indices are first compared with observations, and the performances of downscaling method are quantitatively evaluated. For the future period, the ensemble average of five GCM simulations point to more warm extremes, fewer cold extremes, and more precipitation extremes with greater intensities under all three scenarios. The changes are larger under higher emissions scenarios. The inter-GCM uncertainties and changes in probability distributions are also assessed. Changes in the probability distributions indicate an increase in both the number and inter-annual variability of future climate extreme events. The potential deficiencies of the method in projecting future extremes are also discussed.