This study investigates the historical climatology and future projected change of atmospheric rivers (ARs) and precipitation for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. We use a suite of models from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5, historical and RCP8.5 scenarios) and other observations to estimate AR frequency and mean daily precipitation. Despite its arid-to-semi-arid climate, parts of the MENA region experience strong ARs, which contribute a large fraction of the annual precipitation, such as in the mountainous areas of Turkey and Iran. This study shows that by the end of this century, AR frequency is projected to increase (~20–40%) for the North Africa and Mediterranean areas (including any region with higher latitudes than 35 N). However, for these regions, mean daily precipitation (i.e., regardless of the presence of ARs) is projected to decrease (~15–30%). For the rest of the MENA region, including the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa, minor changes in AR frequency (±10%) are expected, yet mean precipitation is projected to increase (~50%) for these regions. Overall, the projected sign of change in AR frequency is opposite to the projected sign of change in mean daily precipitation for most areas within the MENA region.
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