03 Apr 2023
 | 03 Apr 2023

Identification of regions with a robust increase of heavy precipitation events

Veronika Ettrichrätz, Christian Beier, Klaus Keuler, and Katja Trachte

Abstract. Global climate change is increasingly associated with the increase and/or the intensification of extreme weather such as heat waves, droughts, or heavy precipitation events. However, the characteristics and severity of these changes can vary considerably by region and season. This study focuses on heavy and extreme precipitation events over Europe for the time period 1951–2099. The main objective is to identify regions which show a robust and therefore reliable change in such events with ongoing climate change. The study is based on daily precipitation values from 40 regional climate simulations of the EURO-CORDEX ensemble with a spatial resolution of 12 km (EUR-11).

Future changes were investigated using four different metrics, which are sensitive to alterations in the number and intensity of the detected events and consider an accumulated precipitation amount over a selected threshold and two return values for a 10- and a 100-year return period. Differences were detected between the climate scenarios RCP4.5 and RCP8.5, between summer and winter half-year, and between three different methods used to identify and quantify temporal changes from a reference period (1951–1980) to a future climate period (2070–2099). Furthermore, two criteria characterizing the robustness of the changes were used, i.e. a dominant agreement on the sign and a majority of significant changes within the full simulation ensemble. The analysis provided relative and absolute changes of the four metrics being used and the area fractions that exhibited a robust change.

With all methods applied, our study clearly confirms a significant increase in heavy and extreme precipitation in northern, central, and eastern Europe and a robust decrease in heavy, but not very extreme events in the southwest of the Euro-CORDEX domain associated with projected future climate change. For large parts of Southern Europe and the Mediterranean, a tendency towards decreasing intensities (down to -11 mm/year for the accumulated threshold exceedance) become visible but without the evidence of robustness.

Both, the intensity and the area with robust changes in heavy and extreme events prove to be significantly stronger in the RCP8.5 than in the RCP4.5 scenario. For Central Europe, for example, the accumulated threshold exceedance increases from 15 mm/year to 24 mm/year and the 100-year return value from 21 mm/day to 30 mm/day. The related robust area fractions extend from 31 % to 99 % and from 61 % to 95 %, respectively. The relative changes are substantial, even averaged over larger areas, with values greater than 100 % (50 %) for the severe events and up to 40 % (30 %) for the very extreme events in the RCP8.5 (RCP4.5) scenario. Heavy events increase relatively more in winter (for Central Europe +117 % for the accumulated threshold exceedance in RCP 8.5) than in summer (+81 %). The opposite is true for the extreme events with a weaker increase in winter than in summer (e.g. for Central Europe +26 % for the 100-year return value in winter and +43 % in summer).

Veronika Ettrichrätz et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-552', Anonymous Referee #1, 26 Apr 2023
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-552', Anonymous Referee #2, 30 May 2023

Veronika Ettrichrätz et al.

Veronika Ettrichrätz et al.


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Short summary
Will heavy precipitation increase under climate change by the end of this century? The analyses of 40 regional climate simulations for two climate scenarios show that large parts of northern, central, and eastern Europe will be affected by a robust increase in heavy and extreme precipitation, while southwestern Europe will rather experience a slight decrease. Both the increase and the affected areas can be up to twice as large in an extreme than in a more moderate greenhouse gas scenario.