An Ensemble Covariance Framework for Quantifying Forced Climate Variability and Its Time of Emergence
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An Ensemble Covariance Framework for Quantifying Forced Climate Variability and Its Time of Emergence

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  • Journal Title:
    Journal of Climate
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    Climate variability and its response to increasing greenhouse gases are important considerations for impacts and adaptation. Modeling studies commonly assess projected changes in variability in terms of changes in the variance of climate variables. Despite the distant and impactful covariations that climate variables can exhibit, the covariance response has received much less attention. Here, a novel ensemble framework is developed that facilitates a unified assessment of the response of the regional variances and covariances of a climate variable to imposed external forcings and their time of emergence from an unforced climate state.

    Illustrating the framework, the response of variability and covariability of land and ocean temperatures is assessed in the Community Earth System Model Large Ensemble under historical and RCP8.5 forcing. The results reveal that land temperature variance emerges from its preindustrial state in the 1950s and, by the end of the twenty-first century, grows to 1.5 times its preindustrial level. Demonstrating the importance of covariances for variability projections, the covariance between land and ocean temperature is considerably enhanced by 2100, reaching 1.4 times its preindustrial estimate. The framework is also applied to assess changes in monthly temperature variability associated with the Arctic region and the Northern Hemisphere midlatitudes. Consistent with previous studies and coinciding with sea ice loss, Arctic temperature variance decreases in most months, emerging from its preindustrial state in the late twentieth century. Overall, these results demonstrate the utility of the framework in enabling a comprehensive assessment of variability and its response to external climate forcings.

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    J. Climate (2018) 31 (10): 4117–4133.
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