High-Resolution Regional Climate Modeling and Projection over Western Canada using a Weather Research Forecasting Model with a Pseudo-Global Warming Approach
Yanping Li, Zhenhua Li, Zhe Zhang, Liang Chen, Sopan Kurkute, Lucia Scaff, Xicai Pan
Abstract. To assess the hydroclimatic risks posed by climate change in western Canada, this study conducted a retrospective simulation (CTL) and a pseudo-global warming (PGW) dynamical downscaling of future warming projection under RCP8.5 from an ensemble of CMIP5 climate model projections using a convection-permitting 4-km Weather Research Forecasting (WRF) model. The convection-permitting resolution of the model avoids the error-prone convection parameterization by explicitly resolving cumulus plumes. The evaluation of surface air temperature by the retrospective simulation WRF-CTL against a gridded observation ANUSPLIN shows that WRF simulation of daily mean temperature agrees well with ANUSPLIN temperature in terms of the geographical distribution of cold biases east of the Canadian Rockies, especially in spring. Compared with the observed precipitation from ANUSPLIN and CaPA, the WRF-CTL simulation captures the main pattern of distribution, but with a wet bias seen in higher precipitation near the British Columbia coast in winter and over the immediate region on the lee side of the Canadian Rockies. The PGW simulation shows more warming than CTL, especially over the polar region in the northeast, during the cold season, and in daily minimum temperature. Precipitation changes in PGW over CTL vary with the seasons: In spring and late fall for both basins, precipitation is shown to increase, whereas in summer in the Saskatchewan River Basin, it either shows no increase or decreases, with less summer precipitation shown in PGW than in CTL for some parts of the Prairies. This seasonal difference in precipitation change suggests that in summer the Canadian Prairies and the southern Boreal Forest biomes will likely see a slight decline in precipitation minus evapotranspiration, which might impact soil moisture for farming and forest fires. With almost no increase in summer precipitation and much more evapotranspiration in PGW than in CTL, the water availability during the growing season will be challenging for the Canadian Prairies. WRF-PGW shows an increase of high-intensity precipitation events and shifts the distribution of precipitation events toward more extremely intensive events in all seasons, as current moderate events become extreme events with more vapor loading, especially in summer. Due to this shift in precipitation intensity to the higher end in the PGW simulation, the seemingly moderate increase in the total amount of precipitation in summer for both the Mackenzie and Saskatchewan river basins may not reflect the real change in flooding risk and water availability for agriculture. The high-resolution downscaled climate simulations provide abundant opportunities both for investigating local-scale atmospheric dynamics and for studying climate impacts in hydrology, agriculture, and ecosystems. The change in the probability distribution of precipitation intensity also calls for innovative bias-correction methods to be developed for the application of the dataset when bias-correction is required.