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Earth System Dynamics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 03 Feb 2020

Submitted as: research article | 03 Feb 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal ESD.

Variability of surface climate in simulations of past and future

Kira Rehfeld1, Raphaël Hébert2, Juan M. Lora3, Marcus Lofverstrom4, and Chris M. Brierley5 Kira Rehfeld et al.
  • 1Institute of Environmental Physics, Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg, INF 229, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany
  • 2Alfred-Wegener Institute Helmholtz-Center for Polar- and Marine Research, Telegrafenberg A45, 14473 Potsdam, Germany
  • 3Department of Geology and Geophysics, Yale University, 210 Whitney Ave, New Haven, CT 06520, US
  • 4Department of Geosciences, University of Arizona, 1040 E. 4th Street, Tucson, AZ 85721, US
  • 5Department of Geography, University College London, London, WC1E 6BT, UK

Abstract. It is virtually certain that the mean surface temperature of the Earth will continue to increase under realistic emission scenarios. Yet comparatively little is known about future changes in climate variability. We explore changes in climate variability over the large range of climates simulated by the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phases 5 and 6 (CMIP5/6) and the Paleoclimate Modeling Intercomparison Project Phase 3 (PMIP3). This consists of time slices of the Last Glacial Maximum, the Mid Holocene and idealized warming experiments (1 % CO2) and abrupt4×CO2), and encompasses climates with a range of 12 K of global mean temperature change. We examine climate variability from different perspectives: the local interannual change, coherent climate modes and through compositing extremes. The change in the interannual variability of precipitation is strongly dependent upon the local change in the total amount of precipitation. Meanwhile only over tropical land is the change in the interannual temperature variability positively correlated to temperature change, and then weakly. In general, temperature variability is inversely related to mean temperature change – with analysis of power spectra demonstrating that this holds from intra-seasonal to multi-decadal timescales. We systematically investigate changes in the standard deviation of modes of climate variability, such as the North Atlantic Oscillation, with global mean temperature change. While several modes do show consistent relationships (most notably the Atlantic Zonal Mode), no generalisable pattern emerges.

By compositing extreme precipitation events across the ensemble, we demonstrate that the atmospheric drivers dominating rainfall variability in Mediterranean climates persist throughout palaeoclimate and future simulations. The robust nature of the response of climate variability, between both cold and warm climates and across multiple timescales, suggests that observations and proxy reconstructions could provide a meaningful constraint on climate variability in future projections.

Kira Rehfeld et al.

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Kira Rehfeld et al.

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Latest update: 31 Mar 2020
Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Under continued anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions it is highly likely that global mean surface temperature will continue to increase. Little is known, however, about changes in climate variability. We analyze surface climate variability and compare it to mean change across colder- and warmer-than-present climate model simulations. In most locations simulated temperature variability from monthly to decadal timescales decreases with mean temperature, while precipitation variability increases.
Under continued anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions it is highly likely that global mean...