Paleoclimate constraints on the spatiotemporal character of past and future droughts

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Coats, Sloan
Smerdon, Jason E.
Stevenson, Samantha
Fasullo, John T.
Otto-Bliesner, Bette
Ault, Toby
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Climate change
Climate models
Climate variability
Other artificial intelligence/machine learning
Machine-learning-based methods that identify drought in three-dimensional space–time are applied to climate model simulations and tree-ring-based reconstructions of hydroclimate over the Northern Hemisphere extratropics for the past 1000 years, as well as twenty-first-century projections. Analyzing reconstructed and simulated drought in this context provides a paleoclimate constraint on the spatiotemporal characteristics of simulated droughts. Climate models project that there will be large increases in the persistence and severity of droughts over the coming century, but with little change in their spatial extent. Nevertheless, climate models exhibit biases in the spatiotemporal characteristics of persistent and severe droughts over parts of the Northern Hemisphere. We use the paleoclimate record and results from a linear inverse modeling-based framework to conclude that climate models underestimate the range of potential future hydroclimate states. Complicating this picture, however, are divergent changes in the characteristics of persistent and severe droughts when quantified using different hydroclimate metrics. Collectively our results imply that these divergent responses and the aforementioned biases must be better understood if we are to increase confidence in future hydroclimate projections. Importantly, the novel framework presented herein can be applied to other climate features to robustly describe their spatiotemporal characteristics and provide constraints on future changes to those characteristics.
Author Posting. © American Meteorological Society, 2020. This article is posted here by permission of American Meteorological Society for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Journal of Climate 33(22), (2020): 9883-9903,
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Coats, S., Smerdon, J. E., Stevenson, S., Fasullo, J. T., Otto-Bliesner, B., & Ault, T. R. (2020). Paleoclimate constraints on the spatiotemporal character of past and future droughts. Journal of Climate, 33(22), 9883-9903.
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