The most comprehensive climate model to date of the continental United States predicts more extreme temperatures throughout the country and more extreme precipitation along the Gulf Coast, in the Pacific Northwest and east of the Mississippi.
These graphics illustrate some of the changes in climate predicted for the 21st century by Purdue Universitys Noah Diffenbaugh and his team of scientists using a computer simulation they recently completed. The simulation indicates that the entire continental United States will experience more intense heat waves, most dramatically in the desert Southwest (top figure). It also indicates that several areas, notably the Gulf Coast, will experience more storms that bring heavy precipitation (bottom figure). The computer model, which incorporates many climatic factors in unprecedented detail, suggests that these changes will be significant enough to disrupt our national economy and infrastructure. (Purdue graphic/Diffenbaugh Lab)
The climate model, run on supercomputers at Purdue University, takes into account a large number of factors that have been incompletely incorporated in past studies, such as the effects of snow reflecting solar energy back into space and of high mountain ranges blocking weather fronts from traveling across them, said Noah S. Diffenbaugh, the teams lead scientist. Diffenbaugh said a better understanding of these factors – coupled with a more powerful computer system on which to run the analysis – allowed the team to generate a far more coherent image of what weather we can expect to encounter in the continental United States for the next century. Those expectations, he said, paint a very different climate picture for most parts of the country.
"This is the most detailed projection of climate change that we have for the U.S.," said Diffenbaugh, an assistant professor of earth and atmospheric sciences in Purdues College of Science and a member of the Purdue Climate Change Research Center. "And the changes our model predicts are large enough to substantially disrupt our economy and infrastructure."
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