23 Apr 2024
 | 23 Apr 2024
Status: this preprint is open for discussion and under review for Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP).

Climate variability can outweigh the influence of climate mean changes for extreme precipitation under global warming

Kalle Nordling, Nora Fahrenbach, and Bjørn Samset

Abstract. As global warming progresses, weather conditions like daily temperature and precipitation are changing due to changes in their means and distributions of day-to-day variability. In this study, we show that changes in variability have a stronger influence on the number of extreme precipitation days than the change in the mean state in many locations. We analyze daily precipitation and maximum temperatures at four levels of global warming and under different emission scenarios for the Northern Hemisphere (NH) summer (June – August). Our analysis is based on initial condition large ensemble simulations from three fully coupled Earth System Models (MPI-ESM1-2-LR, CanESM5, and ACCESS-ESM1-5) contributing to the Climate Model Inter-comparison Project phase 6 (CMIP6). We also use information from the Precipitation Driver Response Model Intercomparison Project (PDRMIP) to discern the influence of different climate drivers (notably aerosols and greenhouse gases). We decompose the total changes in daily NH summer precipitation and daily maximum temperature into mean and variability components (standard deviation and skewness). Our results show that in many locations, variability exerts a stronger influence than mean changes on daily precipitation. Changes in the widths and shapes of precipitation distributions are especially dominating over mean changes in Asia, the Arctic and Sub-Saharan Africa. In contrast, temperature changes are primarily driven by changes in the mean state. For the near future (2020–2040), we find that reductions in aerosol emissions would increase the likelihood of extreme summertime precipitation only over Asia. This study emphasizes the importance of incorporating daily variability changes into climate change impact assessments and advocates that future emulator and impact model development should focus on improving the representation of daily variability.

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Kalle Nordling, Nora Fahrenbach, and Bjørn Samset

Status: open (until 12 Jun 2024)

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Kalle Nordling, Nora Fahrenbach, and Bjørn Samset
Kalle Nordling, Nora Fahrenbach, and Bjørn Samset


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Short summary
People experience daily weather, not changes in monthly averages. We investigate how the likelihood of events, which occurred once every ten years in the pre-industrial era. We analyze how summertime precipitation and daily maximum temperature events evolve. Our focus is on understanding the role of day-to-day variability in the change in the number of extreme weather days. We find that in most regions, a change in variability is the primary driver for change in summertime extreme precipitation.