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Title: Projected Changes in Mean and Extreme Precipitation over Northern Mexico

Northern Mexico is home to more than 32 million people and is of significant agricultural and economic importance for the country. The region includes three distinct hydroclimatic regions, all of which regularly experience severe dryness and flooding and are highly susceptible to future changes in precipitation. To date, little work has been done to characterize future trends in either mean or extreme precipitation over northern Mexico. To fill this gap, we investigate projected precipitation trends over the region in the NA-CORDEX ensemble of dynamically downscaled simulations. We first verify that these simulations accurately reproduce observed precipitation over northern Mexico, as derived from the Multi-Source Weighted-Ensemble Precipitation (MSWEP) product, demonstrating that the NA-CORDEX ensemble is appropriate for studying precipitation trends over the region. By the end of the century, simulations forced with a high-emissions scenario project that both mean and extreme precipitation will decrease to the west and increase to the east of the Sierra Madre highlands, decreasing the zonal gradient in precipitation. We also find that the North American monsoon, which is responsible for a substantial fraction of the precipitation over the region, is likely to start later and last approximately three weeks longer. The frequency of extreme precipitation events is expected to double throughout the region, exacerbating the flood risk for vulnerable communities in northern Mexico. Collectively, these results suggest that the extreme precipitation-related dangers that the region faces, such as flooding, will increase significantly by the end of the century, with implications for the agricultural sector, economy, and infrastructure.

Significance Statement

Northern Mexico regularly experiences severe flooding and its important agricultural sector can be heavily impacted by variations in precipitation. Using high-resolution climate model simulations that have been tested against observations, we find that these hydroclimate extremes are likely to be exacerbated in a warming climate; the dry (wet) season is projected to receive significantly less (more) precipitation (approximately ±10% by the end of the century). Simulations suggest that some of the changes in precipitation over the region can be related to the North American monsoon, with the monsoon starting later in the year and lasting several weeks longer. Our results also suggest that the frequency of extreme precipitation will increase, although this increase is smaller than that projected for other regions, with the strongest storms becoming 20% more frequent per degree of warming. These results suggest that this region may experience significant changes to its hydroclimate through the end of the century that will require significant resilience planning.

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Publisher / Repository:
American Meteorological Society
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Journal of Climate
Medium: X Size: p. 2405-2422
p. 2405-2422
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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