Fine-scale processes regulate the response of extreme events to global climate change

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Diffenbaugh, Noah S., Jeremy S. Pal, Robert J. Trapp, and Filippo Giorgi
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We find that extreme temperature and precipitation events are likely to respond substantially to anthropogenically enhanced greenhouse forcing and that fine-scale climate system modifiers are likely to play a critical role in the net response. At present, such events impact a wide variety of natural and human systems, and future changes in their frequency and/or magnitude could have dramatic ecological, economic, and sociological consequences. Our results indicate that fine-scale snow albedo effects influence the response of both hot and cold events and that peak increases in extreme hot events are amplified by surface moisture feedbacks. Likewise, we find that extreme precipitation is enhanced on the lee side of rain shadows and over coastal areas dominated by convective precipitation. We project substantial, spatially heterogeneous increases in both hot and wet events over the contiguous United States by the end of the next century, suggesting that consideration of fine-scale processes is critical for accurate assessment of local- and regional-scale vulnerability to climate change.


Diffenbaugh, Noah S., Jeremy S. Pal, Robert J. Trapp, and Filippo Giorgi. 2005. “Fine-Scale Processes Regulate the Response of Extreme Events to Global Climate Change.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 102 (44): 15774–78. doi:10.1073/pnas.0506042102.