Precipitation Organization in a Warmer Climate

Friday, 19 December 2014
Rosana Nieto Ferreira, Mark Nissenbaum and Thomas M Rickenbach, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC, United States
This study will investigate changes in precipitation organization in a warmer climate using the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model and CMIP-5 ensemble climate simulations. This work builds from an existing four-year NEXRAD radar-based precipitation climatology over the southeastern U.S. that uses a simple two-category framework of precipitation organization based on instantaneous precipitating feature size. The first category - mesoscale precipitation features (MPF) – dominates winter precipitation and is linked to the more predictable large-scale forcing provided by the extratropical cyclones. In contrast, the second category - isolated precipitation – dominates the summer season precipitation in the southern coastal and inland regions but is linked to less predictable mesoscale circulations and to local thermodynamics more crudely represented in climate models. Most climate modeling studies suggest that an accelerated water cycle in a warmer world will lead to an overall increase in precipitation, but few studies have addressed how precipitation organization may change regionally. To address this, WRF will simulate representative wintertime and summertime precipitation events in the Southeast US under the current and future climate. These events will be simulated in an environment resembling the future climate of the 2090s using the pseudo-global warming (PGW) approach based on an ensemble of temperature projections. The working hypothesis is that the higher water vapor content in the future simulation will result in an increase in the number of isolated convective systems, while MPFs will be more intense and longer-lasting. In the context of the seasonal climatology of MPF and isolated precipitation, these results have implications for assessing the predictability of future regional precipitation in the southeastern U.S.