Dynamics of the Mediterranean droughts from 850 to 2099 CE in the Community Earth System Model

Kim, Woon Mi; Raible, Christoph C.

In this study, we analyze the dynamics of multi-year droughts over the western and central Mediterranean for the period of 850–2099 CE using the Community Earth System Model version 1.0.1. Overall, the model is able to realistically represent droughts over this region, although it shows some biases in representing El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) variability and mesoscale phenomena that are relevant in the context of droughts over the region.

The analysis of the simulations shows that there is a discrepancy among diverse drought metrics in representing duration and frequencies of past droughts in the western and central Mediterranean. The self-calibrated Palmer drought severity index identifies droughts with significantly longer duration than other drought indices during 850–1849 CE. This re-affirms the necessity of assessing a variety of drought indices in drought studies in the paleoclimate context as well.

Independent of the choice of the drought index, the analysis of the period 850–1849 CE suggests that Mediterranean droughts are mainly driven by internal variability of the climate system rather than external forcing. Strong volcanic eruptions show no connection to dry conditions but instead are connected to wet conditions over the Mediterranean. The analysis further shows that Mediterranean droughts are characterized by a barotropic high-pressure system together with a positive temperature anomaly over central Europe. This pattern occurs in all seasons of drought years, with stronger amplitudes during winter and spring. The North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) and ENSO are also involved during Mediterranean multi-year droughts, showing that droughts occur more frequently with positive NAO and La Niña-like conditions. These modes of variability play a more important role during the initial stage of droughts. As a result, the persistence of multi-year droughts is determined by the interaction between the regional atmospheric and soil moisture variables, i.e., the land–atmosphere feedbacks, during the transition years of droughts.

These feedbacks are intensified during the period 1850–2099 CE due to the anthropogenic influence, thus reducing the role of modes of variability on droughts in this period. Eventually, the land–atmosphere feedbacks induce a constant dryness over the Mediterranean region for the late 21st century relative to the period 1000–1849 CE.

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Zitierform:

Kim, Woon Mi / Raible, Christoph C.: Dynamics of the Mediterranean droughts from 850 to 2099 CE in the Community Earth System Model. 2021. Copernicus Publications.

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