Mid-Century Warming in the Los Angeles Region

Using a combination of dynamical and statistical downscaling techniques, we projected mid-21st-century warming in the Los Angeles region at 2-km (1.2-mile) resolution. To account for uncertainty associated with the trajectory of future greenhouse gas emissions and other factors affecting the planet’s energy balance, we examined projections for both “business-as-usual” (RCP8.5) and “mitigation” (RCP2.6) emissions scenarios of the Fifth Coupled Model Intercomparison Project. To account for the considerable uncertainty associated with choice of global climate model, we downscaled results for all available global models. For the business-as-usual scenario, we find that by the mid-21st century, the most likely warming is roughly 4.6°F averaged over the region’s land areas, with a 95% confidence that the warming lies between 1.7 and 7.5°F. The high resolution of the projections reveals a pronounced spatial pattern in the warming: High elevations and inland areas separated from the coast by at least one mountain complex warm 20 to 50% more than the areas near the coast or within the Los Angeles basin.

This warming pattern is especially apparent in summertime. The summertime warming contrast between the inland and coastal zones has a large effect on the most likely expected number of extremely hot days per year. Coastal locations and areas within the Los Angeles basin see roughly two to three times the number of extremely hot days, while high elevations and inland areas typically experience approximately three to five times the number of extremely hot days. Under the mitigation emissions scenario, the most likely warming and increase in heat extremes are somewhat smaller. However, the majority of the warming seen in the business-as-usual scenario still occurs at all locations in the most likely case under the mitigation scenario, and heat extremes still increase significantly. Therefore adaptation to a changing climate over the next few decades is likely to be inevitable in the Los Angeles region.

Additional credits:

Fengpeng Sun

Daniel Walton

Scott Capps

Xin Qu

Hsin-Yuan Huang

Neil Berg

Alexandre Jousse

Marla Schwartz

Mark Nakamura

Ruth Cerezo-Mota

In conjunction with UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, Los Angeles Regional Collaborative for Climate Action and Sustainability, US Department of Energy, and the City of Los Angeles.

Publication Date: July 2012

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