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Falling trend of western disturbances in future climate simulations

Hunt, K. M. R. ORCID:, Turner, A. G. ORCID: and Shaffrey, L. C. ORCID: (2019) Falling trend of western disturbances in future climate simulations. Journal of Climate, 32. pp. 5037-5051. ISSN 1520-0442

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1175/JCLI-D-18-0601.1


Western disturbances (WDs) are synoptic-scale cyclonic weather systems advected over Pakistan and north India by the subtropical westerly jet stream. There, they are responsible for most of the winter precipitation, crucial for agriculture of the rabi crop, as well as more extreme precipitation events, which can lead to local flooding and avalanches. Despite their importance, there has not yet been an attempt to objectively determine the fate of WDs in future climate GCMs. Here, a tracking algorithm is used to build up a catalogue of WDs in both CMIP5 historical and representative concentration pathway (RCP) experiments of the future. It is shown that in business-as-usual (RCP8.5) future climate simulations, WD frequency falls by around 15% by the end of the twenty-first century, with the largest relative changes coming in pre- and post-monsoon months. Meanwhile, mean WD intensity will decrease, with central vorticity expected to become less cyclonic by about 12% over the same period. Changes in WD frequency are attributed to the projected widening and weakening of the winter subtropical jet; as well as decreasing meridional wind shear and mid-tropospheric baroclinic vorticity tendency, which also explain the changes in intensity. Finally, the impact of these changes on regional precipitation is explored. The decline in WD frequency and intensity will cause a decrease in mean winter rainfall over Pakistan and north India amounting to about 15% of the mean -- subject to the ability of the models to represent the processes responsible. The effect on extreme precipitation events, however, remains unclear.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:83723
Publisher:American Meteorological Society


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