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Changes of Rainfall Seasonality and Drought Severity over Amazonia and Their Connections to Global Climate Change (2010-2013)

Project Summary

   Current climate models project a wide variety of rainfall changes over Amazonia, contributing to a large discrepancy in projected global carbon-climate feedbacks and associated surface warming. This project aims to detect and understand the changes of rainfall seasonality and drought severity in Amazonia and their connection to the global scale climate change during the past few decades, and to explore use of observations to clarify the future change of Amazonian rainfall. Since observations only represent the past and their records in Amazonia are only adequate to validate rainfall changes on seasonal to interannual scales, we will first examine whether the physical processes that control decadal or longer time scale rainfall changes are in common with those on seasonal to interannual scales, then determine whether these processes are adequately simulated in climate models, and whether the models that more realistically capture these processes can collectively provide a more coherent climate projection. The objectives of the project are:

  • Determine observationally whether or not rainfall seasonality and drought severity, have changed significantly in Amazonia during the past few decades, and if so, what mechanisms have caused these changes;

  • Determine whether the observed rainfall changes are mainly attributable to natural climate variability or to forcing by anthropogenic activity;

  • Validate the physical processes that control rainfall seasonality and drought severity in climate models to reduce their uncertainty in climate projections for future Amazonian rainfall, and to clarify the likelihood that future rainfall changes will threaten the rainforest;

  • To train Ph.Ds., especially students that are either woman or from Amazonian countries or both, to communicate research results of this project and climate science information to K-12 minority students from rural Texas, to energy research community and industry, and to general public.

   Observations from various sources, the simulations from the Phase Three of the Coupled Ocean-Atmosphere Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP3), the simulations of the global atmosphere-land models forced by prescribed sea surface temperatures (SSTs) and simulations by a regional climate model forced by realistic aerosol radiative forcing will be used to address these tasks. This project will contribute to clarification of the causes of climate variability and change over a tropical land region. In doing so, it will also contributes to reducing uncertainties in projecting future global atmospheric CO2 concentrations. The project will also train future researchers and educators for climate programs in Amazonian countries and increase public awareness and knowledge about the global importance of tropical rainforest, especially to climate and carbon cycle.

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