Climate change uncertainty for daily minimum and maximum temperatures: A model intercomparison

Several impacts of climate change may depend more on changes in mean daily minimum (Tmin) or maximum (Tmax) temperatures than daily averages. To evaluate uncertainties in these variables, we compared projections of Tmin and Tmax changes by 2046-2065 for 12 climate models under an A2 emission scenario. Average modeled changes in Tmin were similar to those for Tmax, with slightly greater increases in Tmin consistent with historical trends exhibiting a reduction in diurnal temperature ranges. In contrast, the inter-model variability of Tmin and Tmax projections exhibited substantial differences. For example, inter-model standard deviations of June-August Tmax changes were more than 50% greater than for Tmin throughout much of North America, Europe, and Asia. Model differences in cloud changes, which exert relatively greater influence on Tmax during summer and Tmin during winter, were identified as the main source of uncertainty disparities. These results highlight the importance of considering separately projections for Tmax and Tmin when assessing climate change impacts, even in cases where average projected changes are similar. In addition, impacts that are most sensitive to summertime Tmin or wintertime Tmax may be more predictable than suggested by analyses using only projections of daily average temperatures.