AbstractContinued anthropogenic CO2 emissions are expected to drive widespread changes in precipitation characteristics. Nonetheless, projections of precipitation change vary considerably at the regional scale between climate models. Here, it is shown that the response of plant physiology to elevated CO2, or CO2 physiological forcing drives widespread hydrologic changes distinct from those associated with CO2 radiative forcing and has a role in shaping regional-scale differences in projected daily-scale precipitation changes. In a suite of simulations with the Community Climate System Model, version 4 (CCSM4), reduced stomatal conductance from projected physiological forcing drives large decreases in transpiration and changes the distribution of daily-scale precipitation within and adjacent to regions of dense vegetation and climatologically high transpiration. When atmospheric conditions are marginally favorable for precipitation, reduced transpiration dries the boundary layer and increases the likelihood of dry day occurrence. In CCSM4, the annual number of dry days increases by upward of 15 days yr−1 over tropical land and the continental midlatitudes. Decreases in transpiration from physiological forcing also increase the number of heavy precipitation events by up to 8 days yr−1 in many tropical forest regions. Despite reductions in the land surface contribution to atmospheric moisture, diminished surface latent heat fluxes warm the forest boundary layer and increase moisture convergence from nearby oceans, enhancing instability. The results suggest that consideration of the radiative impacts of CO2 alone cannot account for projected regional-scale differences in daily precipitation changes, and that CO2 physiological forcing may contribute to differences in projected precipitation characteristics among climate models.
Journal of Climate – American Meteorological Society
Published: Apr 17, 2017
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