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CIG’s research on Pacific Northwest (PNW) climate focuses on defining the characteristics of and driving mechanisms for historic, 20th century, and 21st century climate in the PNW. This research provides a foundation for assessing the impacts of climate variability and change on the PNW, and developing climate-based forecasts and decision-support tools for regional decision-makers.
Climate Modeling and Prediction
- 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.
- Climate, Air Quality and Wildfire In this project, we are using an ensemble modeling approach that will address the impacts and uncertainties related to the effects of global change on regional air quality in the U.S.
- High-resolution Regional Climate Scenarios for Impacts Studies Climate impacts studies require scenarios of climate change at very high spatial resolution and at temporal resolution of daily or hourly time steps. These scenarios are derived from global climate model projections using downscaling methods. To understand uncertainties in future climate projections, a large ensemble of scenarios based on multiple global climate models and multiple future emissions scenarios is required. In this project, we use statistical downscaling and a regional climate model to produce regional climate scenarios to support climate impacts studies.
- Analysis of Global Climate Model Projections for the Pacific Northwest Climate change projections for the Pacific Northwest used for impacts studies are derived from global climate model simulations. As part of the IPCC Fourth Assessment, research centers around the world have completed a suite of climate change simulations and the output from these simulations is publicly available for applied research. The Climate Impacts Group has analyzed simulations from 20 global climate models for the 20th C and projections for the 21st C based on three emissions pathways (SRES A2 A1B and B1).
- Regional Modeling: Massive Ensembles for Regional Impacts Studies Since 2000, an innovative scientific experiment based at Oxford University, called climateprediction.net, has made use of over 50,000 volunteers' personal computers to perform global climate modeling and answer fundamental questions about the response to global greenhouse gases. For the first time, climateprediction.net will perform regional climate modeling for western North America using the HadRM regional model. Regional modeling provides better spatial detail, which is critically important in mountainous regions.
- Future Climate of the California Current System The IPCC results for projected changes in the Oregon upwelling region are equivocal. The projected changes are small, but since the sign of these changes vary among the models, the model output requires more scrutiny. What is well known is that the region is expected to show a temperature increase that will be concentrated in the upper ocean. We are reevaluating IPCC forecasts for SSTs and surface winds, the latter by evaluating projections for surface pressure fields and downscaling those to regional-scale upwelling wind fields.
- Coastal Upwelling: Past, Present, and Future The failure of the 2005 upwelling season along the Oregon and Washington coast focused interest in understanding how large-scale atmospheric climate variability influences upwelling along the west coast of the U.S. and in coastal upwelling regions around the globe. In support of a NOAA-led effort to understand the 2005 upwelling episode, an historical upwelling index was developed from sea-level pressure records, and the index used to document the regional scale of the phenomenon.
- Early Winter Pacific Northwest Precipitation Forecast Skill As part of a larger project to characterize the skill of hydrological forecasts for regions around the globe, the skill of two-week tropospheric geopotential height (500 hPa) forecasts is evaluated for the Northern Hemisphere extratropics during October-November-December (OND), the calendar months of floods in western Washington.
- Documenting and Interpreting the Southeast U.S. Drought Drought conditions befell the southeast U.S. in late 2005 and, depending on the metric, may be continuing. Time series of annual precipitation for the region were related to global sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies to identify regions where slowly evolving ocean conditions may be contributing to the drought.
Climate Data and Information
- Global, National, and Regional Climate Data Sets CSES provides a large collection of gridded instrumental data sets (primarily temperature and precipitation, but also pressure and winds, and others) on the World Wide Web (WWW) as a resource to the UW, national, and global community.
- Nick Bond (UW/JISAO & NOAA/PMEL) and Gabe Vecchi (NOAA/PMEL) are examining the relationships between the tropical Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) and precipitation and flooding in the Pacific Northwest.
- Extreme Events in the Pacific Northwest: A collaborative study between the CIG and Environment Canada is documenting the statistics of extreme daily temperature, precipitation, and wind events in the Alaska, western Canada, and the Pacific Northwest and how these statistics relate to dominant patterns of atmospheric and atmosphere/ocean variability.