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  1. Abstract

    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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  2. Abstract

    The northeastern United States (NEUS) is a densely populated region with a number of major cities along the climatological storm track. Despite its economic and social importance, as well as the area’s vulnerability to flooding, there is significant uncertainty around future trends in extreme precipitation over the region. Here, we undertake a regional study of the projected changes in extreme precipitation over the NEUS through the end of the twenty-first century using an ensemble of high-resolution, dynamically downscaled simulations from the North American Coordinated Regional Climate Downscaling Experiment (NA-CORDEX) project. We find that extreme precipitation increases throughout the region, with the largest changes in coastal regions and smaller changes inland. These increases are seen throughout the year, although the smallest changes in extreme precipitation are seen in the summer, in contrast to earlier studies. The frequency of heavy precipitation also increases such that there are relatively fewer days with moderate precipitation and relatively more days with either no or strong precipitation. Averaged over the region, extreme precipitation increases by +3%–5% °C−1of local warming, with the largest fractional increases in southern and inland regions and occurring during the winter and spring seasons. This is lower than the +7% °C−1rate expected from thermodynamic considerations alone and suggests that dynamical changes damp the increases in extreme precipitation. These changes are qualitatively robust across ensemble members, although there is notable intermodel spread associated with models’ climate sensitivity and with changes in mean precipitation. Together, the NA-CORDEX simulations suggest that this densely populated region may require significant adaptation strategies to cope with the increase in extreme precipitation expected at the end of the next century.

    Significance Statement

    Observations show that the northeastern United States has already experienced increases in extreme precipitation, and prior modeling studies suggest that this trend is expected to continue through the end of the century. Using high-resolution climate model simulations, we find that coastal regions will experience large increases in extreme precipitation (+6.0–7.5 mm day−1), although there is significant intermodel spread in the trends’ spatial distribution and in their seasonality. Regionally averaged, extreme precipitation will increase at a rate of ∼2% decade−1. Our results also suggest that the frequency of extreme precipitation will increase, with the strongest storms doubling in frequency per degree of warming. These results, taken with earlier studies, provide guidance to aid in resiliency preparation and planning by regional stakeholders.

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  3. The factors controlling the present-day pattern of temperature variance are poorly understood. In particular, it is unclear why the variance of wintertime near-surface temperatures on daily and synoptic time scales is roughly twice as high over North America as over Eurasia. In this study, continental geometry’s role in shaping regional wintertime temperature variance is investigated using idealized climate model simulations run with midlatitude continents of different shapes. An isolated, rectangular midlatitude continent suggests that in the absence of other geographic features, the highest temperature variance will be located in the northwest of the continent, roughly collocated with the region of largest meridional temperature gradients, and just north of the maximum near-surface wind speeds. Simulations with other geometries, mimicking key features of North America and Eurasia, investigate the impacts of continental length and width, sloping coastlines, and inland bodies of water on regional temperature variance. The largest effect comes from tapering the northwest corner of the continent, similar to Eurasia, which substantially reduces the maximum temperature variance. Narrower continents have smaller temperature variance in isolation, implying that the high variances over North America must be due to the nonlocal influence of stationary waves. Support for this hypothesis is provided by simulations with two midlatitude continents, which show how continental geometry and stationary waves can combine to shape regional temperature variance. 
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