Projections of eastern Australian rainfall

Posted by on Jan 21, 2016 in Abstracts, Abstracts 2015

Comparison of various climate change projections of eastern Australian rainfall


The Australian eastern seaboard is a distinct climate entity from the interior of the continent, with different climatic influences on each side of the Great Dividing Range. Therefore, it is plausible that downscaling of global climate models could reveal meaningful regional detail, or ‘added value’, in the climate change signal of mean rainfall change in eastern Australia under future scenarios. However, because downscaling is typically done using a limited set of global climate models and downscaling methods, the results from a downscaling study may not represent the  range of uncertainty in plausible projected change for a region suggested by the ensemble of host global climate models. A complete and unbiased representation of the plausible changes in the climate is essential in producing climate projections useful for future planning. As part of this aim it is important to quantify any differences in the change signal between global climate models and downscaling, and understand the cause of these differences in terms of plausible added regional detail in the climate change signal, the impact of sub-sampling  global climate models and the effect of the downscaling models themselves.

Here we examine rainfall projections in eastern Australia under a high emissions scenario by late in the century from ensembles of global climate models, two dynamical downscaling models and one statistical downscaling model. We find no cases where all three downscaling methods show the same clear regional spatial detail  in the change signal that is distinct from the host models. However, some downscaled projections suggest that the eastern seaboard could see little change in spring rainfall, in contrast to the substantial rainfall decrease inland.

The change signal in the downscaled outputs is broadly similar at the large scale in the various model outputs , with a few notable exceptions. For example, the model median from dynamical downscaling projects a rainfall increase over the entire eastern Australia in autumn that is greater than the global models. Also, there are some instances where a downscaling method produces  changes outside the range of host models over eastern Australia as a whole, thus expanding the projected range of uncertainty. Results are particularly uncertain for summer, where no two downscaling studies clearly agree. There are also some confounding factors from the model configuration used in downscaling, where the particular zones used for statistical models and the model components used in dynamical models have an influence on results and produce additional uncertainty.