High-Resolution Dynamical Downscaling Ensemble Projections of Future Extreme Temperature Distributions for the United States

Zachary Zobel, Jiali Wang, Donald J. Wuebbles, V. Rao Kotamarthi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The aim of this study is to examine projections of extreme temperatures over the continental United States (CONUS) for the 21st century using an ensemble of high spatial resolution dynamically downscaled model simulations with different boundary conditions. The downscaling uses the Weather Research and Forecast model at a spatial resolution of 12 km along with outputs from three different Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 global climate models that provide boundary conditions under two different future greenhouse gas (GHG) concentration trajectories. The results from two decadal-length time slices (2045–2054 and 2085–2094) are compared with a historical decade (1995–2004). Probability density functions of daily maximum/minimum temperatures are analyzed over seven climatologically cohesive regions of the CONUS. The impacts of different boundary conditions as well as future GHG concentrations on extreme events such as heat waves and days with temperature higher than 95°F are also investigated. The results show that the intensity of extreme warm temperature in future summer is significantly increased, while the frequency of extreme cold temperature in future winter decreases. The distribution of summer daily maximum temperature experiences a significant warm-side shift and increased variability, while the distribution of winter daily minimum temperature is projected to have a less significant warm-side shift with decreased variability. Using “business-as-usual” scenario, 5-day heat waves are projected to occur at least 5–10 times per year in most CONUS and ≥95°F days will increase by 1–2 months by the end of the century.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1234-1251
Number of pages18
JournalEarth's Future
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2017


  • Downscaling
  • Ensembles
  • Future Projections
  • High Resolution
  • Temperature Extremes
  • United States

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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