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Larger spatial footprint of wintertime total precipitation extremes in a warmer climate

Bevacqua, E., Shepherd, T. G. ORCID:, Watson, P. A. G., Sparrow, S., Wallom, D. and Mitchell, D. (2021) Larger spatial footprint of wintertime total precipitation extremes in a warmer climate. Geophysical Research Letters, 48 (8). e2020GL091990. ISSN 0094-8276

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1029/2020GL091990


The simultaneous occurrence of extremely wet winters at multiple locations in the same region can contribute to widespread flooding and associated socio-economic losses. However, the spatial extent of precipitation extremes (i.e. the area in which nearby locations experience precipitation extremes simultaneously) and its future changes are largely overlooked in climate assessments. Employing new multi-thousand-year climate model simulations, we show that under both 2.0C and 1.5C warming scenarios, wintertime total precipitation extreme extents would increase over about 80-90% of the Northern Hemisphere extratropics (i.e. the latitude band 28-78N). Stabilising at 1.5C rather than 2.0C would reduce the average magnitude of the increase by 1.7-2 times. According to the climate model, the increased extents are caused by increases in precipitation intensity rather than changes in the spatial organisation of the events. Relatively small percentage increases in precipitation intensities (e.g., by 4%) can drive disproportionately larger, by 1-2 orders of magnitude, growth in the spatial extents (by 93%).

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:97005
Publisher:American Geophysical Union


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