Articles | Volume 3, issue 2
Earth Syst. Dynam., 3, 213–231, 2012

Special issue: Impacts of Land-Uses and Land-Cover Changes (LULCC) on the...

Earth Syst. Dynam., 3, 213–231, 2012

Research article 26 Nov 2012

Research article | 26 Nov 2012

Effects of land cover change on temperature and rainfall extremes in multi-model ensemble simulations

A. J. Pitman1, N. de Noblet-Ducoudré2, F. B. Avila1, L. V. Alexander1, J.-P. Boisier2, V. Brovkin3, C. Delire4, F. Cruz1,5, M. G. Donat6, V. Gayler3, B. van den Hurk7, C. Reick3, and A. Voldoire4 A. J. Pitman et al.
  • 1ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
  • 2Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement, Gif-sur-Yvette, France
  • 3Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Hamburg, Germany
  • 4Groupe d'étude de l'Atmosphère Météorologique, Toulouse, France
  • 5Manila Observatory, Quezon City, Philippines
  • 6Climate Change Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
  • 7Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, De Bilt, The Netherlands

Abstract. The impact of historical land use induced land cover change (LULCC) on regional-scale climate extremes is examined using four climate models within the Land Use and Climate, IDentification of robust impacts project. To assess those impacts, multiple indices based on daily maximum and minimum temperatures and daily precipitation were used. We contrast the impact of LULCC on extremes with the impact of an increase in atmospheric CO2 from 280 ppmv to 375 ppmv. In general, consistent changes in both high and low temperature extremes are similar to the simulated change in mean temperature caused by LULCC and are restricted to regions of intense modification. The impact of LULCC on both means and on most temperature extremes is statistically significant. While the magnitude of the LULCC-induced change in the extremes can be of similar magnitude to the response to the change in CO2, the impacts of LULCC are much more geographically isolated. For most models, the impacts of LULCC oppose the impact of the increase in CO2 except for one model where the CO2-caused changes in the extremes are amplified. While we find some evidence that individual models respond consistently to LULCC in the simulation of changes in rainfall and rainfall extremes, LULCC's role in affecting rainfall is much less clear and less commonly statistically significant, with the exception of a consistent impact over South East Asia. Since the simulated response of mean and extreme temperatures to LULCC is relatively large, we conclude that unless this forcing is included, we risk erroneous conclusions regarding the drivers of temperature changes over regions of intense LULCC.

Final-revised paper