Global mean precipitation is expected to increase with increasing temperatures, a process which is fairly well understood. In contrast, local precipitation changes, which are key for society and ecosystems, demonstrate a large spread in predictions by climate models, can be of both signs and have much larger magnitude than the global mean change. Previously, two top-down approaches to constrain precipitation changes were proposed, using either the atmospheric water or energy budget. Here, using an ensemble of 27 climate models, we study the relative importance of these two budgetary constraints and present analysis of the spatial scales at which they hold. We show that specific geographical locations are more constrained by either one of the budgets and that the combination of water and energy budgets provides a significantly stronger constraint on the spatial scale of precipitation changes under anthropogenic climate change (on average about 3000 km, above which changes in precipitation approach the global mean change). These results could also provide an objective way to define the scale of ‘regional’ climate change.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Global and Planetary Change
- Environmental Chemistry
- Atmospheric Science