Precipitation response to climate change and urban development over the continental United States

M. Georgescu, A. M. Broadbent, M. Wang, E. Scott Krayenhoff, Mohamed Moustaoui

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Appropriately characterizing future changes in regional-scale precipitation requires assessment of the interactive effect owing to greenhouse gas-induced climate change and the physical growth of the built environment. Here we use a suite of medium resolution (20 km grid spacing) decadal scale simulations conducted with the Weather Research and Forecasting model coupled to an urban canopy parameterization to examine the interplay between end-of-century long-lived greenhouse gas (LLGHG) forcing and urban expansion on continental US (CONUS) precipitation. Our results show that projected changes in extreme precipitation are at least one order of magnitude greater than projected changes in mean precipitation; this finding is geographically consistent over the seven CONUS National Climate Assessment (NCA) regions and between the pair of dynamically downscaled global climate model (GCM) forcings. We show that dynamical downscaling of the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory GCM leads to projected end-of-century changes in extreme precipitation that are consistently greater compared to dynamical downscaling of the Community Earth System Model GCM for all regions except the Southeast NCA region. Our results demonstrate that the physical growth of the built environment can either enhance or suppress extreme precipitation across CONUS metropolitan regions. Incorporation of LLGHGs indicates compensating effects between urban environments and greenhouse gases, shifting the probability spectrum toward broad enhancement of extreme precipitation across future CONUS metropolitan areas. Our results emphasize the need for development of management policies that address flooding challenges exacerbated by the twin forcing agents of urban- and greenhouse gas-induced climate change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number044001
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Volume16
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2021

Keywords

  • WRF
  • climate change
  • extreme precipitation
  • regional climate
  • urban flooding
  • urbanization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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