California Climate Change Center
Possible future climate changes in California are investigated from a varied set of climate change model simulations. These simulations, conducted by three state-of-the-art global climate models, provide trajectories from three greenhouse gas (GHG) emission scenarios. These scenarios and the resulting climate simulations are not “predictions,” but rather are a limited sample from among the many plausible pathways that may affect California’s climate. Future GHG concentrations are uncertain because they depend on future social, political, and technological pathways, and thus the IPCC has produced four “families” of emission scenarios. To explore some of these uncertainties, emissions scenarios A2 (a medium-high emissions) and B1 (low emissions) were selected from the current IPCC Fourth climate assessment, which provides several recent model simulations driven by A2 and B1 emissions. The global climate model simulations addressed here were from PCM1, the Parallel Climate Model from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) group, and CM2.1 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Geophysical Fluids Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL). As part of the scenarios assessment, a statistical technique using properties of historical weather data was employed to correct model biases and “downscale” the global-model simulation of future climates to a finer level of detail, onto a grid of approximately 7 miles (12 kilometers), which is more suitable for impact studies at the scales needed by California decision makers. In current climate-change simulations, temperatures over California warm significantly during the twenty-first century, with temperature increases from approximately +3ºF (1.5ºC) in the lower emissions scenario (B1) within the less responsive model (PCM1) to +8ºF (4.5ºC) in the higher emissions scenario (A2) within the more responsive model (CM2.1). Three of the simulations (all except the low-emission scenario run of the low-response model) exhibit more warming in summer than in winter. In all of the simulations, most precipitation continues to occur in winter, with virtually all derived from North Pacific winter storms. Relatively little change in overall precipitation is projected. Climate warming has a profound influence in diminishing snow accumulations, because there is more rain and less snow, and earlier snowmelt. These snow losses increase as the warming increases, so that they are most severe under climate changes projected by the more sensitive model with the higher GHG emissions.
Cayan, D., E. Maurer, M. Dettinger, M. Tyree, K. Hayhoe, C. Bonfils, P. Duffy, and B. Santer, 2006, Climate scenarios for California, California Climate Change Center publication no. CEC-500-2005-203-SF
This report was prepared as the result of work sponsored by the California Energy Commission (Energy Commission) and the California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA).