Climate projections for southern Australian rainfall

Posted by on Aug 28, 2015 in Abstracts, Abstracts 2015

Climate projections for southern Australian cool-season rainfall: insights from a downscaling comparison


The projected drying of the extra-tropics under a warmer climate has large implications for natural systems and water security in southern Australia. Downscaling of global climate models offers the prospect of insights into the regional patterns of rainfall change in the mid-latitudes in the typically wetter cool season. The comparison of statistical and a dynamical downscaling model outputs reveal regions of consistent potential added value in the climate change signal over the 21st Century that is largely related to finer resolution. These include a stronger and more regionalised rainfall decrease on west coasts in response to a shift in westerly circulation, and a different response further from the coast where other influences are important. These patterns have a plausible relationship to topography and regional drivers that are not resolved by coarse global models. However, the comparison of statistical and dynamical downscaling reveals where the method and the configuration of each method makes a difference to the projection.

This is an important source of uncertainty for regional rainfall projections. In particular, the simulated change in atmospheric circulation over the century is different in the dynamical downscaling compared to the global climate model inputs, related in part to a different response to patterns of surface warming. Therefore the dynamical downscaling places the border between regions with rainfall increase and decrease further north in winter and spring compared to the global climate models, and so has a different rainfall projection for southeast mainland Australia in winter and for Tasmania in spring.