Changes in frequency of large precipitation accumulations over land in a warming climate from the CESM Large Ensemble: the roles of moisture, circulation and duration

Published in Journal of Climate, 2019

ABSTRACT: Projected changes in the frequency of major precipitation accumulations (hundreds of millimeters), integrated over rainfall events, over land in the late twenty-first century are analyzed in the Community Earth System Model (CESM) Large Ensemble, based on the RCP8.5 scenario. Accumulation sizes are sorted by the local average recurrence interval (ARI), ranging from 0.1 to 100 years, for the current and projected late- twenty-first-century climates separately. For all ARIs, the frequency of exceedance of the given accumulation size increases in the future climate almost everywhere, especially for the largest accumulations, with the 100-yr accumulation becoming about 3 times more frequent, averaged over the global land area. The moisture budget allows the impacts of individual factors—moisture, circulation, and event duration—to be isolated. In the tropics, both moisture and circulation cause large future increases, enhancing the 100-yr accumulation by 23% and 13% (average over tropical land), and are individually responsible for making the current-climate 100-yr accumulation 2.7 times and 1.8 times more frequent, but effects of shorter durations slightly offset these effects. In the midlatitudes, large accumulations become about 5% longer in duration, but are predominantly controlled by enhanced moisture, with the 100-yr accumulation (land average) becoming 2.4 times more frequent, and 2.2 times more frequent due to moisture increases alone. In some monsoon-affected regions, the 100-yr accumulation becomes more than 5 times as frequent, where circulation changes are the most impactful factor. These projections indicate that changing duration of events is a relatively minor effect on changing accumulations, their future enhancement being dominated by enhanced intensity (the combination of moisture and circulation).

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Norris, Jesse, Gang Chen and J. David Neelin, 2019: Changes in frequency of large precipitation accumulations over land in a warming climate from the CESM Large Ensemble: the roles of moisture, circulation and duration, Journal of Climate, JCLI--D--18--0600.1, doi:10.1175/JCLI-D-18-0600.1.