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AGU: Geophysical Research Letters



  • Precipitation
  • Reanalysis model
  • climate model
  • global warming
  • hydrology
  • precipitation intensity

Index Terms

  • 1610 - Atmosphere
  • 1626 - Global climate models
  • 1854 - Precipitation
  • 3305 - Climate change and variability
  • 3354 - Precipitation

Paper in Press


How much do precipitation extremes change in a warming climate?

Key Points
  • Large increase in precipitation intensity derived from the GPCP is credible.
  • Reanalysis models can simulate the change of precipitation intensity.
  • Climate models can simulate the shape of intensity change but not the magnitude.


Chein-Jung Shiu

Shaw Chen Liu

Congbin Fu

Aiguo Dai

Ying Sun

Daily data from reanalyses of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) and the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) are analyzed to study changes in precipitation intensity with respect to global mean temperature. The results are in good agreement with those derived from the Global Precipitation Climatology Project (GPCP) data by Liu et al., [2009], providing an independent verification for large changes in the precipitation extremes: about 100% increase for the annual top 10% heavy precipitation and about 20% decrease for the light and moderate precipitation for one degree warming in the global temperature. These changes can substantially increase the risk of floods as well as droughts, thus severely affecting the global ecosystems. Atmospheric models used in the reanalysis mode, with the benefit of observed wind and moisture fields, appear to be capable of realistically simulating the change of precipitation intensity with global temperature. In comparison, coupled climate models are capable of simulating the shape of the change in precipitation intensity, but underestimate the magnitude of the change by about one order of magnitude. The most likely reason of the underestimation is that the typical spatial resolution of climate models is too coarse to resolve atmospheric convection.

Received 15 June 2012; accepted 3 August 2012.

Citation: Shiu, C.-J., S. C. Liu, C. Fu, A. Dai, and Y. Sun (2012), How much do precipitation extremes change in a warming climate?, Geophys. Res. Lett., doi:10.1029/2012GL052762, in press.