Projections of Twenty-First-Century Climate Extremes for Alaska via Dynamical Downscaling and Quantile Mapping

Climate change is expected to alter the frequencies and intensities of at least some types of extreme events. Although Alaska is already experiencing an amplified response to climate change, studies of extreme event occurrences have lagged those for other regions. Forced migration due to coastal erosion, failing infrastructure on thawing permafrost, more severe wildfire seasons, altered ocean chemistry, and an ever-shrinking season for snow and ice are among the most devastating effects, many of which are related to extreme climate events. This study uses regional dynamical downscaling with the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model to investigate projected twenty-first-century changes of daily maximum temperature, minimum temperature, and precipitation over Alaska. The forcing data used for the downscaling simulations include the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) interim reanalysis (ERA-Interim; 1981–2010), Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory Climate Model, version 3 (GFDL CM3), historical (1976–2005), and GFDL CM3 representative concentration pathway 8.5 (RCP8.5; 2006–2100). Observed trends of temperature and sea ice coverage in the Arctic are large, and the present trajectory of global emissions makes a continuation of these trends plausible. The future scenario is bias adjusted using a quantile-mapping procedure. Results indicate an asymmetric warming of climate extremes; namely, cold extremes rise fastest, and the greatest changes occur in winter. Maximum 1- and 5-day precipitation amounts are projected to increase by 53% and 50%, which is larger than the corresponding increases for the contiguous United States. When compared with the historical period, the shifts in temperature and precipitation indicate unprecedented heat and rainfall across Alaska during this century.
Lader, R., Walsh, J. E., Bhatt, U.S., and Bieniek, P. A.
American Meteorological Society