Projecting changes in regional temperature and precipitation extremes in the United States

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Schoof, Justin T., and Scott M. Robeson
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Regional and local climate extremes, and their impacts, result from the multifaceted interplay between large-scale climate forcing, local environmental factors (physiography), and societal vulnerability. In this paper, we review historical and projected changes in temperature and precipitation extremes in the United States, with a focus on strengths and weaknesses of (1) commonly used definitions for extremes such as thresholds and percentiles, (2) statistical approaches to quantifying changes in extremes, such as extreme value theory, and (3) methods for post-processing (downscaling) global climate models (GCMs) to investigate regional and local climate. We additionally derive regional and local estimates of changes in temperature extremes by applying a quantile mapping approach to high-resolution gridded daily temperature data for 6 U.S. sub-regions. Consistent with the background warming in the parent GCMs, we project decreases in regional and local cold extremes and increases in regional and local warm extremes throughout the domain, but the downscaling approach removes bias and produces substantial spatial variability within the relatively small sub-regions. We finish with recommendations for future research on regional climate extremes, suggesting that focus be placed on improving understanding of extremes in the context of large-scale circulation and evaluating the corresponding cascade of scale interactions within GCMs.


Schoof, Justin T., and Scott M. Robeson. 2016. “Projecting Changes in Regional Temperature and Precipitation Extremes in the United States.” Weather and Climate Extremes 11 (March): 28–40. doi:10.1016/j.wace.2015.09.004.