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Influences of circulation and climate change on European summer heat extremes

August 5, 2013

Atmospheric circulation patterns occurring on the warmest 10% of summer days for a region of Europe severely impacted by the 2003 heatwave have been identified using a perturbed parameter ensemble of regional high resolution climate model simulations for the recent-past. Changes in the frequency and duration of these circulation types, driven by the simulations following a moderate transient pathway of anthropogenic emissions are then shown for the period 2070 to 2100. Increases in the future probability of hot days are then attributed separately to changes in the frequency and temperature intensity of the circulation types. Changes in temperature intensity are found to have an effect 2 to 3 times larger than in frequency.

We then consider how model uncertainty in changes of future temperature within circulation patterns compares to the uncertainty irrespective of circulation, in an attempt to exclude contributions to the overall uncertainty arising from changes in circulation. Within individual patterns, the range of meteorological physical processes may be narrower. However, no reduction in uncertainty was found when single patterns were considered. Contributions to the lack of narrowing from circulation type duration, model vegetation root-depth and changes in cloud cover, pressure gradient and continental-scale warming are subsequently examined using relationships between changes in surface latent heat and temperature. Vegetation root-depth is found to be the greatest contributor to the temperature uncertainty.

Clark R T, Brown S J, 2013, Influences of circulation and climate change on European summer heat extremes, Journal of Climate, doi:10.1175/JCLI-D-12-00740.1. Article (subscription required).

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