Persistent Cold Air Outbreaks over North America Under Climate Warming

Monday, 15 December 2014
Yang Gao, L. Ruby Leung and Jian Lu, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, WA, United States
This study evaluates the change of cold air outbreaks (CAO) over North America using Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) multi-model ensemble of global climate simulations as well as regional high resolution climate simulations. In future, while robust decrease of CAO duration dominates in most of the North America, the decrease over northwestern U.S. was found to have much smaller magnitude than the surrounding regions. We found statistically significant increase of the sea level pressure over gulf of Alaska, leading to the advection of cold air to northwestern U.S.. By shifting the probability distribution of present temperature towards future warmer conditions, we identified the changes in large scale circulation contribute to about 50% of the enhanced sea level pressure. Using the high resolution regional climate model results, we found that increases of existing snowpack could potentially trigger the increase of CAO in the near future over the southwestern U.S. and Rocky Mountain through surface albedo effects. By the end of this century, the top 5 most extreme historical CAO events may still occur and wind chill warning will continue to have societal impacts over North America in particular over northwestern United States.