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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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We assess the combined effects of greenhouse-gas (GHG)-forced climate change and land-use changes (LUC) on regional climate projections. To do so, we produced regional climate model (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), allowing us to assess the influence of the LUCs on RCM projections through the SSP+RCP scenarios framework. 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 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 into previous forest, projected annual mean temperature increases are diminished by around 0.5-1.0℃. Where urbanization is high, projected temperature increases are magnified, particularly in summer where 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 the warm-season, 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