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SSP-Based Land Use Change Scenarios: A Critical Uncertainty in Future Regional Climate Change Projections
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  • Melissa Bukovsky,
  • Jing Gao,
  • Linda O. Mearns,
  • Brian O'Neill
Melissa Bukovsky
National Center for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), National Center for Atmospheric Research (UCAR)

Corresponding Author:bukovsky@ucar.edu

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Jing Gao
University of Delaware, University of Delaware
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Linda O. Mearns
National Center for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), National Center for Atmospheric Research (UCAR)
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Brian O'Neill
Univ of Denver, Univ of Denver
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To better understand the role projected land-use changes (LUC) may play in future regional climate projections, we assess the combined effects of greenhouse-gas (GHG)-forced climate change and LUCs in regional climate model (RCM) simulations. To do so, we produced RCM simulations that are complementary to the North-American Coordinated Regional Downscaling Experiment (NA-CORDEX) simulations, but with future LUCs that are consistent with particular Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs) and related to a specific Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP). We examine the state of the climate at the end of the 21st Century with and without two urban and agricultural LUC scenarios that follow SSP3 and SSP5 using the Weather Research and Forecasting model (WRF) forced by one global climate model, the MPI-ESM, under the RCP8.5 scenario. We find that LUCs following different societal trends under the SSPs can significantly affect climate projections in different ways. In regions of significant cropland expansion over previously forested area, projected annual mean temperature increases are diminished by around 0.5-1.0℃. Across all seasons, where urbanization is high, projected temperature increases are magnified. In particular, summer mean temperature projections are up to 4-5℃ greater and minimum and maximum temperature projections are increased by 2.5-6℃, amounts that are on par with the warming due to GHG-forced climate change. Warming is also enhanced in the urban surroundings. Future urbanization also has a large influence on precipitation projections during summer, increasing storm intensity, event length, and the overall amount over urbanized areas, and decreasing precipitation in surrounding areas.
Mar 2021Published in Earth's Future volume 9 issue 3. 10.1029/2020EF001782