CR 63:233-247 (2015)  -  DOI:

Climate change assessment for a small island: a Tahiti downscaling experiment

M. Hopuare1,2,*, M. Pontaud2, J. -P. Céron3, M. Déqué2, P. Ortéga1

1GePaSud Laboratory, Tahiti, French Polynesia
2CNRM GAME UMR 3589, Météo France/CNRS, Toulouse, France
3Direction de la Climatologie, Météo France, Toulouse, France
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: This study addresses the projected 21st century changes in austral summer precipitation and future precipitation anomalies related to El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) for a South Pacific island: Tahiti, French Polynesia. An approach involving 2 successive downscaling steps is proposed here as a first attempt to simulate precipitation over a small orographic island. First, the 50 km mesh global atmospheric model ARPEGE is forced by bias-corrected sea surface temperatures (SSTs) from a CMIP5 scenario. This model drives the limited area model ALADIN. The final 12 km mesh regional simulation coarsely captures the island of Tahiti. Historical and scenario runs (RCP4.5 and RCP8.5) are therefore available at the island scale. Linking station data and historical model outputs using quantile-quantile plots allows a correction of the biases of the regional simulation and an assessment of precipitation changes over the 21st century. For both scenarios, mean austral summer precipitation tend to increase over the century on the south-east side of Tahiti, following the present El Niño-like precipitation pattern. This trend could be a local manifestation of the large-scale drift of the tropical Pacific Ocean towards an El Niño-like spatial structure. This drift is indeed verified in the SST fields. Then, superimposed upon this slowly evolving mean state, future El Niño events would cause positive precipitation anomalies, whereas future La Niña events would cause negative precipitation anomalies. However, in the last period of RCP8.5, future El Niño events do not seem to affect precipitation anymore, suggesting a damping of the warm events, probably due to a warmer mean state.

KEY WORDS: South Pacific · Regional climate simulation

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Cite this article as: Hopuare M, Pontaud M, Céron JP, Déqué M, Ortéga P (2015) Climate change assessment for a small island: a Tahiti downscaling experiment. Clim Res 63:233-247.

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