High-Resolution Climate Projections to Aid Planning Efforts


High-Resolution Climate Projections to Aid Planning Efforts

Minnesota’s climate is changing, as indicated by observed temperature increases and extremes in precipitation. These changes are impacting valuable resources, such as swimmable, fishable lakes and rivers; productive forests that sustain iconic species, like moose and birch; fertile farmland cultivated for local food systems and commodity export; and many aspects of the built environment that support our daily lives, such as roads and bridges, stormwater/sewer infrastructure, potable water supply, and power utilities. Projections at the local level of further change in temperature, precipitation, and other weather-related variables are urgently needed by researchers, planners, engineers, farmers and businesses to ensure sound planning and implementation of appropriate adaptation strategies for maintaining and protecting our natural environment, built infrastructure, economy and health. The goals of this project are: to produce high-resolution (areas equivalent to a quarter size of a township) climate model projections for the entire state of Minnesota; to develop a publicly-accessible web-based portal for obtaining the data; and to develop educational resources and train professionals on using and interpreting the data for planning and adaptation purposes.

The focus of the work using MSI resources involves examination of how climate change will affect the climate of Minnesota using high-resolution downscaled climate model projections. The researchers use a computational technique called dynamical downscaling with the Weather Research and Forecasting Model (WRF) to take global climate models projections used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to produce new high-resolution climate model projections for the entire state of Minnesota from 1970 to 2099. Over a three year period, ten high-resolution climate projections will be produced for Minnesota that represent moderate and high emission scenarios of projected climate change. This approach will provide a lower and upper bound of plausible outcomes for planning purposes. Model results will be produced statewide at 5 km x 5 km resolution with data available for different time frames.

The group also plans to use the CESM1-CAM5 model, a state-of-the-art climate model produced by the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, C. This model is being used to investigate the larger-scale role that global forcings have on producing atmospheric conditions leading to droughts in Minnesota. For example, it is recognized that tropical Pacific sea surface temperature anomalies are known to produce persistent blocking highs over the western two-thirds of the U.S. in summertime. The climate model will be used to explore these drivers of drought and to then use the results of the model to drive the regional scale model (WRF).

A Research Spotlight about this group's work appeared on the MSI website in June 2014.

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