Pacific Northwest Regional Climate Model

Pacific Northwest

The US Pacific Northwest (see map right) is characterized by complex terrain and land-water contrasts. These characteristics 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. Statistical downscaling and regional climate models are two tools that have been applied to bridge the gap between global climate models and local impacts.

Statistical methods have been successfully employed for hydrologic applications by the Climate Impacts Group, and are currently the principal method for developing regional climate scenarios. However, these methods cannot capture the changes in the climate that result from interactions and feedbacks between the large-scale atmospheric state and mesoscale processes. Until recently, regional models have not been able to usefully improve on statistical downscaling mainly due to the coasrse grid spacing unable to resolve these interactions at the regional scale.

The CSES Climate Impacts Group, in collaboration with researchers in the Department of Atmospheric Science, has undertaken research to develop 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. The resulting scenarios of future climate change should account for physical interactions in the climate system at all spatial scales.

E-mail: Eric Salathé