Diagnosing links between atmospheric moisture and extreme daily precipitation over the UK
To link to this article DOI: 10.1002/joc.4547
Atmospheric moisture characteristics associated with the heaviest 1% of daily rainfall events affecting regions of the British Isles are analysed over the period 1997–2008. A blended satellite/rain-gauge data set (GPCP-1DD) and regionally averaged daily rain-gauge observations (HadUKP) are combined with the ERA Interim reanalysis. These are compared with simulations from the HadGEM2-A climate model which applied observed sea surface temperature and realistic radiative forcings. Median extreme daily rainfall across the identified events and locations is larger for GPCP (32 mm day−1) than HadUKP and the simulations (∼25 mm day−1). The heaviest observed and simulated daily rainfall events are associated with increased specific humidity and horizontal transport of moisture (median 850 hPa specific humidity of ∼6 g kg−1 and vapour transport of ∼150 g kg−1 m s−1 for both observed and simulated events). Extreme daily rainfall events are less common during spring and summer across much of the British Isles, but in the south east region, they contribute up to 60% of the total number of distinct extreme daily rainfall events during these months. Compared to winter events, the summer events over south east Britain are associated with a greater magnitude and more southerly location of moisture maxima and less spatially extensive regions of enhanced moisture transport. This contrasting dependence of extreme daily rainfall on moisture characteristics implies a range of driving mechanisms that depend upon location and season. Higher spatial and temporal resolution data are required to explore these processes further, which is vital in assessing future projected changes in rainfall and associated flooding.