Publications by Author: SBCapps

Huang, HY, SB Capps, SC Huang, and A Hall. 2015. “Downscaling near-surface wind over complex terrain using a physically-based statistical modeling approach.” Climate Dynamics 44 (1–2): 529–542. Publisher's Version Abstract
A physically-based statistical modeling approach to downscale coarse resolution reanalysis near-surface winds over a region of complex terrain is developed and tested in this study. Our approach is guided by physical variables and meteorological relationships that are important for determining near-surface wind flow. Preliminary fine scale winds are estimated by correcting the course-to-fine grid resolution mismatch in roughness length. Guided by the physics shaping near-surface winds, we then formulate a multivariable linear regression model which uses near-surface micrometeorological variables and the preliminary estimates as predictors to calculate the final wind products. The coarse-to-fine grid resolution ratio is approximately 10–1 for our study region of southern California. A validated 3-km resolution dynamically-downscaled wind dataset is used to train and validate our method. Winds from our statistical modeling approach accurately reproduce the dynamically-downscaled near-surface wind field with wind speed magnitude and wind direction errors of <1.5 ms−1 and 30°, respectively. This approach can greatly accelerate the production of near-surface wind fields that are much more accurate than reanalysis data, while limiting the amount of computational and time intensive dynamical downscaling. Future studies will evaluate the ability of this approach to downscale other reanalysis data and climate model outputs with varying coarse-to-fine grid resolutions and domains of interest.
Berg, N, A Hall, F Sun, SB Capps, DB Walton, B Langenbrunner, and JD Neelin. 2015. “Mid 21st-century precipitation changes over the Los Angeles region.” Journal of Climate 28 (2): 401–421. Publisher's Version Abstract
A new hybrid statistical–dynamical downscaling technique is described to project mid- and end-of-twenty-first-century local precipitation changes associated with 36 global climate models (GCMs) in phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project archive over the greater Los Angeles region. Land-averaged precipitation changes, ensemble-mean changes, and the spread of those changes for both time slices are presented. It is demonstrated that the results are similar to what would be produced if expensive dynamical downscaling techniques were instead applied to all GCMs. Changes in land-averaged ensemble-mean precipitation are near zero for both time slices, reflecting the region’s typical position in the models at the node of oppositely signed large-scale precipitation changes. For both time slices, the intermodel spread of changes is only about 0.2–0.4 times as large as natural interannual variability in the baseline period. A caveat to these conclusions is that interannual variability in the tropical Pacific is generally regarded as a weakness of the GCMs. As a result, there is some chance the GCM responses in the tropical Pacific to a changing climate and associated impacts on Southern California precipitation are not credible. It is subjectively judged that this GCM weakness increases the uncertainty of regional precipitation change, perhaps by as much as 25%. Thus, it cannot be excluded that the possibility that significant regional adaptation challenges related to either a precipitation increase or decrease would arise. However, the most likely downscaled outcome is a small change in local mean precipitation compared to natural variability, with large uncertainty on the sign of the change.
Walton, DB, F Sun, A Hall, and SB Capps. 2015. “A hybrid dynamical–statistical downscaling technique, part I: Development and validation of the technique.” Journal of Climate 28 (12): 4597–4617. Publisher's Version Abstract
In this study (Part I), the mid-twenty-first-century surface air temperature increase in the entire CMIP5 ensemble is downscaled to very high resolution (2 km) over the Los Angeles region, using a new hybrid dynamical–statistical technique. This technique combines the ability of dynamical downscaling to capture finescale dynamics with the computational savings of a statistical model to downscale multiple GCMs. First, dynamical downscaling is applied to five GCMs. Guided by an understanding of the underlying local dynamics, a simple statistical model is built relating the GCM input and the dynamically downscaled output. This statistical model is used to approximate the warming patterns of the remaining GCMs, as if they had been dynamically downscaled. The full 32-member ensemble allows for robust estimates of the most likely warming and uncertainty resulting from intermodel differences. The warming averaged over the region has an ensemble mean of 2.3°C, with a 95% confidence interval ranging from 1.0° to 3.6°C. Inland and high elevation areas warm more than coastal areas year round, and by as much as 60% in the summer months. A comparison to other common statistical downscaling techniques shows that the hybrid method produces similar regional-mean warming outcomes but demonstrates considerable improvement in capturing the spatial details. Additionally, this hybrid technique incorporates an understanding of the physical mechanisms shaping the region’s warming patterns, enhancing the credibility of the final results.
Capps, SB, A Hall, and M Hughes. 2014. “Sensitivity of Southern California wind energy to turbine characteristics.” Wind Energy 17 (1): 141–159. Publisher's Version Abstract
Using output from a high‐resolution meteorological simulation, we evaluate the sensitivity of southern California wind energy generation to variations in key characteristics of current wind turbines. These characteristics include hub height, rotor diameter and rated power, and depend on turbine make and model. They shape the turbine's power curve and thus have large implications for the energy generation capacity of wind farms. For each characteristic, we find complex and substantial geographical variations in the sensitivity of energy generation. However, the sensitivity associated with each characteristic can be predicted by a single corresponding climate statistic, greatly simplifying understanding of the relationship between climate and turbine optimization for energy production. In the case of the sensitivity to rotor diameter, the change in energy output per unit change in rotor diameter at any location is directly proportional to the weighted average wind speed between the cut‐in speed and the rated speed. The sensitivity to rated power variations is likewise captured by the percent of the wind speed distribution between the turbines rated and cut‐out speeds. Finally, the sensitivity to hub height is proportional to lower atmospheric wind shear. Using a wind turbine component cost model, we also evaluate energy output increase per dollar investment in each turbine characteristic. We find that rotor diameter increases typically provide a much larger wind energy boost per dollar invested, although there are some zones where investment in the other two characteristics is competitive. Our study underscores the need for joint analysis of regional climate, turbine engineering and economic modeling to optimize wind energy production.
Jin, Y, JT Randerson, N Faivre, SB Capps, A Hall, and ML Goulden. 2014. “Contrasting controls on wildland fires in Southern California during periods with and without Santa Ana winds.” Journal of Geophysical Research—Biogeosciences 119 (3): 432–450. Publisher's Version Abstract
Wildland fires in Southern California can be divided into two categories: fall fires, which are typically driven by strong offshore Santa Ana winds, and summer fires, which occur with comparatively weak onshore winds and hot and dry weather. Both types of fire contribute significantly to annual burned area and economic loss. An improved understanding of the relationship between Southern California's meteorology and fire is needed to improve predictions of how fire will change in the future and to anticipate management needs. We used output from a regional climate model constrained by reanalysis observations to identify Santa Ana events and partition fires into those occurring during periods with and without Santa Ana conditions during 1959–2009. We then developed separate empirical regression models for Santa Ana and non‐Santa Ana fires to quantify the effects of meteorology on fire number and size. These models explained approximately 58% of the seasonal and interannual variation in the number of Santa Ana fires and 36% of the variation in non‐Santa Ana fires. The number of Santa Ana fires increased during years when relative humidity during Santa Ana events and fall precipitation were below average, indicating that fuel moisture is a key controller of ignition. Relative humidity strongly affected Santa Ana fire size. Cumulative precipitation during the previous three winters was significantly correlated with the number of non‐Santa Ana fires, presumably through increased fine fuel density and connectivity between infrastructure and nearby vegetation. Both relative humidity and the preceding wet season precipitation influenced non‐Santa Ana fire size. Regression models driven by meteorology explained 57% of the temporal variation in Santa Ana burned area and 22% of the variation in non‐Santa Ana burned area. The area burned by non‐Santa Ana fires has increased steadily by 1.7% year−1 since 1959 (p < 0.006); the occurrence of extremely large Santa Ana fires has increased abruptly since 2003. Our results underscore the need to separately consider the fuel and meteorological controls on Santa Ana and non‐Santa Ana fires when projecting climate change impacts on regional fire.
Berg, N, A Hall, SB Capps, and M Hughes. 2013. “El Niño–Southern Oscillation impacts on winter winds over Southern California.” Climate Dynamics 40 (1–2): 109–121. Publisher's Version Abstract
Changes in wintertime 10 m winds due to the El Niño-Southern Oscillation are examined using a 6 km resolution climate simulation of Southern California covering the period from 1959 through 2001. Wind speed statistics based on regional averages reveal a general signal of increased mean wind speeds and wind speed variability during El Niño across the region. An opposite and nearly as strong signal of decreased wind speed variability during La Niña is also found. These signals are generally more significant than the better-known signals in precipitation. In spite of these regional-scale generalizations, there are significant sub-regional mesoscale structures in the wind speed impacts. In some cases, impacts on mean winds and wind variability at the sub-regional scale are opposite to those of the region as a whole. All of these signals can be interpreted in terms of shifts in occurrences of the region’s main wind regimes due to the El Niño phenomenon. The results of this study can be used to understand how interannual wind speed variations in regions of Southern California are influenced by the El Niño phenomenon.