Time of Emergence of Climate Extremes in the Pacific Northwest

Friday, 19 December 2014
Cary Lynch, Eric P Salathe Jr, Amy K Snover and Rita Yu, University of Washington Seattle Campus, Seattle, WA, United States
The time at which a climate variable emerges from the noise of climate variability, or “time of emergence” (ToE), is explored from a stakeholder-driven perspective. Using both global and statistically downscaled climate model output from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 5 (CMIP5) and hydrologic model results, management-relevant measures of the climate and environment are analyzed for the Pacific Northwest (PNW), within the broader context of the continental United States. The specific climate variables were selected through meetings with key regional resource managers at federal, state, and local agencies, and generally relate to exceptional events in temperature, precipitation, and streamflow. Uncertainty in ToE calculations is also examined due to three sources: 1) statistical estimation of emergence 2) future emission scenarios (rcp4.5 and rcp8.5) and 3) multi-model ensemble spread. In the PNW, results show that for temperature related climate variables, ToE is likely within the next 50 years, with a strong positive trend, regardless of emission scenario. Precipitation related variables show a much later ToE, with a weak positive signal despite some model disagreement in direction of change. As this data is intended for socio-economic stakeholders in the PNW, a web tool has been designed to allow for visualizing and analyzing ToE for multiple climate variables and the associated probability statistics across the PNW domain. This information will help guide resource managers in the prioritization and timing of climate change adaption activities.