Downscaled Climate Change Projections for the Hindu Kush Himalayan Region Using Cordex South Asia Regional Climate Models
This study assessed the regional climate models (RCMs) employed in the Coordinated Regional climate Downscaling Experiment (CORDEX) South Asia framework to investigate the qualitative aspects of future change in seasonal mean near surface air temperature and precipitation over the Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region. These RCMs downscaled a subset of atmosphere ocean coupled global climate models (AOGCMs) in the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 5 (CMIP5) to higher 50 km spatial resolution over a large domain covering South Asia for two representation concentration pathways (RCP4.5 and RCP8.5) future scenarios. The analysis specifically examined and evaluated multi-model and multi-scenario climate change projections over the hilly sub-regions within HKH for the near-future (2036–2065) and far-future (2066–2095) periods. The downscaled multi-RCMs provide relatively better confidence than their driving AOGCMs in projecting the magnitude of seasonal warming for the hilly sub-region within the Karakoram and northwestern Himalaya, with higher projected change of 5.4 °C during winter than of 4.9 °C during summer monsoon season by the end of 21st century under the high-end emissions (RCP8.5) scenario. There is less agreement among these RCMs on the magnitude of the projected warming over the other sub-regions within HKH for both seasons, particularly associated with higher RCM uncertainty for the hilly sub-region within the central Himalaya. The downscaled multi-RCMs show good consensus and low RCM uncertainty in projecting that the summer monsoon precipitation will intensify by about 22% in the hilly sub-region within the southeastern Himalaya and Tibetan Plateau for the far-future period under the RCP8.5 scenario. There is low confidence in the projected changes in the summer monsoon and winter season precipitation over the central Himalaya and in the Karakoram and northwestern Himalaya due to poor consensus and moderate to high RCM uncertainty among the downscaled multi-RCMs. Finally, the RCM related uncertainty is found to be large for the projected changes in seasonal temperature and precipitation over the hilly sub-regions within HKH by the end of this century, suggesting that improving the regional processes and feedbacks in RCMs are essential for narrowing the uncertainty, and for providing more reliable regional climate change projections suitable for impact assessments in HKH region.