Assessment of CMIP6 performance and projected temperature and precipitation changes over South America

Mansour Almazroui, Moetasim Ashfaq, M. Nazrul Islam, Irfan Ur Rashid, Shahzad Kamil, Muhammad Adnan Abid, Enda O’Brien, Muhammad Ismail, Michelle Simões Reboita, Anna A. Sörensson, Paola A. Arias, Lincoln Muniz Alves, Michael K. Tippett, Sajjad Saeed, Rein Haarsma, Francisco J. Doblas-Reyes, Fahad Saeed, Fred Kucharski, Imran Nadeem, Yamina Silva-VidalJuan A. Rivera, Muhammad Azhar Ehsan, Daniel Martínez-Castro, Ángel G. Muñoz, Md. Arfan Ali, Erika Coppola, Mouhamadou Bamba Sylla

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We evaluate the performance of a large ensemble of Global Climate Models (GCMs) from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 6 (CMIP6) over South America for a recent past reference period and examine their projections of twenty-first century precipitation and temperature changes. The future changes are computed for two time slices (2040–2059 and 2080–2099) relative to the reference period (1995–2014) under four Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs, SSP1–2.6, SSP2–4.5, SSP3–7.0 and SSP5–8.5). The CMIP6 GCMs successfully capture the main climate characteristics across South America. However, they exhibit varying skill in the spatiotemporal distribution of precipitation and temperature at the sub-regional scale, particularly over high latitudes and altitudes. Future precipitation exhibits a decrease over the east of the northern Andes in tropical South America and the southern Andes in Chile and Amazonia, and an increase over southeastern South America and the northern Andes—a result generally consistent with earlier CMIP (3 and 5) projections. However, most of these changes remain within the range of variability of the reference period. In contrast, temperature increases are robust in terms of magnitude even under the SSP1–2.6. Future changes mostly progress monotonically from the weakest to the strongest forcing scenario, and from the mid-century to late-century projection period. There is an increase in the seasonality of the intra-annual precipitation distribution, as the wetter part of the year contributes relatively more to the annual total. Furthermore, an increasingly heavy-tailed precipitation distribution and a rightward shifted temperature distribution provide strong indications of a more intense hydrological cycle as greenhouse gas emissions increase. The relative distance of an individual GCM from the ensemble mean does not substantially vary across different scenarios. We found no clear systematic linkage between model spread about the mean in the reference period and the magnitude of simulated sub-regional climate change in the future period. Overall, these results could be useful for regional climate change impact assessments across South America.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-183
Number of pages29
JournalEarth Systems and Environment
Issue number2
Early online date17 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


  • CMIP6
  • Climate change
  • Global climate models
  • South America

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