Regional Climate: Current Research

Meteorological Processes and Regional Climate Impacts



The U.S. Pacific Northwest is characterized by complex terrain and land-water contrasts, which produce strong spatial gradients in the regional climate and in the atmospheric processes controlling that climate. Global climate models indicate large-scale patterns of change associated with global warming, but they cannot capture the effects of narrow mountain ranges, complex land/water interaction, or regional variations in land-use. The CSES Climate Impacts Group, in collaboration with researchers in the Department of Atmospheric Science, has developed a state-of-the-art high resolution regional climate model for the Pacific Northwest. This project is aimed at addressing the shortcomings of statistical downscaling and coarse-resolution regional models and account for physical interactions in the climate system at all spatial scales.

Several important climate parameters can only be captured in high-resolution model since they involve fine-scale interactions within the regional climate system. These include the frequency of extreme events such as intense precipitation, heat waves, wind storms, and droughts. Furthermore, modeling land-surface processes, such as snowpack and soil moisture, require simulating the interactions between the atmosphere and land surface over decadal times. These issues are critical to understanding the impacts of climate change on the region.


University of Washington Dept. of Atmospheric Sciences, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Washington State University.

Primary Funding

National Science Foundation

Related Publications

For more publications on climate impacts on PNW climate, please see CIG Publications.

Salathé, E.P., R. Steed, C.F. Mass, and P. Zahn. 2008. A high-resolution climate model for the U.S. Pacific Northwest: Mesoscale feedbacks and local responses to climate change. Journal of Climate 21(21): 5708–5726, doi:10.1175/2008JCLI2090.1.

Salathé, E.P., L.R. Leung, Y. Qian, and Y. Zhang. 2009. Regional climate model projections for the State of Washington. Chapter 2 in The Washington Climate Change Impacts Assessment: Evaluating Washington's Future in a Changing Climate, Climate Impacts Group, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington.