Simulations of the future precipitation climate of the Central Andes using a coupled regional climate model

Friday, 19 December 2014
Stephen Nicholls and Karen I Mohr, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, United States
The meridional extent and complex orography of the South American continent contributes to a wide diversity of climate regimes ranging from hyper-arid deserts to tropical rainforests to sub-polar highland regions. Global climate models, although capable of resolving synoptic-scale South American climate features, are inadequate for fully-resolving the strong gradients between climate regimes and the complex orography which define the Tropical Andes given their low spatial and temporal resolution. Recent computational advances now make practical regional climate modeling with prognostic mesoscale atmosphere-ocean coupled models, such as the Coupled Ocean-Atmosphere-Wave-Sediment Transport (COAWST) modeling system, to climate research. Previous work has shown COAWST to reasonably simulate the both the entire 2003-2004 wet season (Dec-Feb) as validated against both satellite and model analysis data. More recently, COAWST simulations have also been shown to sensibly reproduce the entire annual cycle of rainfall (Oct 2003 – Oct 2004) with historical climate model input.

Using future global climate model input for COAWST, the present work involves year-long cycle spanning October to October for the years 2031, 2059, and 2087 assuming the most likely regional climate pathway (RCP): RCP 6.0. COAWST output is used to investigate how global climate change impacts the spatial distribution, precipitation rates, and diurnal cycle of precipitation patterns in the Central Andes vary in these yearly “snapshots”. Initial results show little change to precipitation coverage or its diurnal cycle, however precipitation amounts did tend drier over the Brazilian Plateau and wetter over the Western Amazon and Central Andes. These results suggest potential adjustments to large-scale climate features (such as the Bolivian High).