Assessment of CMIP5 global model simulations and climate change projections for the 21 (st) century using a modified Thornthwaite climate classification

Elguindi N., Grundstein A., BERNARDES S., Turuncoglu U. U., Feddema J.

CLIMATIC CHANGE, vol.122, no.4, pp.523-538, 2014 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 122 Issue: 4
  • Publication Date: 2014
  • Doi Number: 10.1007/s10584-013-1020-0
  • Journal Name: CLIMATIC CHANGE
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.523-538
  • Istanbul Technical University Affiliated: No


A modified Thornthwaite Climate Classification is applied to a 32-member ensemble of CMIP5 GCMs in order to 1) evaluate model performance in the historical climate and 2) assess projected climate change at the end of the 21 (s t) century following two greenhouse gas representative concentration pathways (RCP4.5 and RCP8.5). This classification scheme differs from the well-known Koppen approach as it uses potential evapotranspiration for thermal conditions, a moisture index for moisture conditions, and has even intervals between climate classes. The multi-model ensemble (MME) reproduces the main spatial features of the global climate reasonably well, however, in many regions the climate types are too moist. Extreme climate types, such as those found in polar and desert regions, as well as the cool- and cold-wet types of eastern North America and the warm and cool-moist types found in the southern U.S., eastern South America, central Africa and Europe are reproduced best by the MME. In contrast, the cold-dry and cold-semiarid climate types characterizing much of the high northern latitudes and the warm-wet type found in parts of Indonesia and southeast Asia are poorly represented by the MME. Regionally, most models exhibit the same sign in moisture and thermal biases, varying only in magnitude. Substantial changes in climate types are projected in both the RCP4.5 and RCP8.5 scenarios. Area coverage of torrid climate types expands by 11 % and 19 % in the RCP4.5 and RCP8.5 projections, respectively. Furthermore, a large portion of these areas in the tropics will experience thermal conditions which exceed the range of historical values and fall into a novel super torrid climate class. The greatest growth in moisture types in climate zones is among those with dry climates (moisture index values < 0) with increased areas of more than 8 % projected by the RCP8.5 MME.