Climate Dynamics

, Volume 35, Issue 2–3, pp 489–509 | Cite as

Mechanisms and reliability of future projected changes in daily precipitation

  • Elizabeth Jane Kendon
  • David P. Rowell
  • Richard G. Jones


We isolate the contribution of warming, other large-scale changes and soil moisture decline and feedbacks in driving future projected changes in daily precipitation across Europe. Our confidence in each of these mechanisms differs, so this analysis then allows us to determine an overall confidence (or reliability) in the projected changes. In winter, increases in extreme precipitation over Europe as a whole are judged to be reliable, dominated by increased atmospheric moisture with warming. At scales less than about 2,000 km changing circulation patterns could enhance or offset this increase. Additionally, over the Scandinavian mountains warming-induced circulation changes do offset the effect of increased moisture and the overall change is unreliable. In summer, increases in extreme precipitation over northern Scandinavia and decreases over the Mediterranean are reliable in the absence of considerable circulation change. Over central Europe, an increase in the proportion of summer rainfall falling as extreme events is reliable.


Climate change Extreme rainfall Mechanisms Uncertainty Circulation change 



Discussions with Adam Scaife and Erasmo Buonomo have been much appreciated, along with funding from the Joint Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and Ministry of Defence (MoD) Integrated Climate Programme—DECC/Defra (GA01101), MoD (CBC/2B/0417-Annex C5), and the European Commission’s Sixth Framework Programme under contract GOCE-CT-2003-505539 (ENSEMBLES). We thank David Sexton and Mark Webb for designing and running, respectively, the Met Office Hadley Centre QUMP ensemble. We also acknowledge the modelling groups, PCMDI and the WCRP’s Working Group on Coupled Modelling for their roles in making available the WCRP CMIP3 multi-model dataset. Support for this dataset is provided by the Office of Science, U.S. Department of Energy.


  1. Allen MR, Ingram WJ (2002) Constraints on future changes in climate and the hydrologic cycle. Nature 419:224–232CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Boe J, Terray L, Cassou C, Najac J (2009) Uncertainties in European summer precipitation changes: role of large scale circulation. Clim Dyn 33:265–276CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Christensen JH, Hewitson B, Busuioc A, Chen A, Gao X, Held I, Jones R, Kolli RK, Kwon WT, Laprise R, Magana Rueda V, Mearns L, Menendez CG, Raisanen J, Rinke A, Sarr A, Whetton P (2007) Chapter 11: regional climate projections. In: Climate change 2007: the physical science basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Cambridge University PressGoogle Scholar
  4. Collins M, Booth BBB, Harris GR, Murphy JM, Sexton DMH, Webb MJ (2006) Towards quantifying uncertainty in transient climate change. Clim Dyn 27(2–3):127–147. doi:10.1007/s00382-006-0121-0 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Durman CF, Gregory JM, Hassell DC, Jones RG, Murphy JM (2001) A comparison of extreme European daily precipitation simulated by a global and a regional climate model for present and future climates. Q J R Meteorol Soc 127:1005–1015CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Fowler HJ, Ekström M, Blenkinsop S, Smith AP (2007) Estimating change in extreme European precipitation using a multi-model ensemble. J Geophys Res 112(D18): Art No. D18104Google Scholar
  7. Frei C, Scholl R, Fukutome S, Schmidli J, Vidale PL (2006) Future change in precipitation extremes in Europe: an intercomparison of scenarios from regional climate models. J Geophys Res 111(D6): Art No. D06105Google Scholar
  8. Gregory JM, Mitchell JFB, Brady AJ (1997) Summer drought in northern mid-latitudes in a time-dependent CO2 climate experiment. J Clim 10:662–686CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Hegerl GC, Zwiers FW, Stott PA, Kharin VV (2004) Detectability of anthropogenic changes in annual temperature and precipitation extremes. J Clim 17:3683–3700CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Held IM (1993) Large-scale dynamics and global warming. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 74(2):228–241CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Hurrell JW (1995) Decadal trends in the North Atlantic Oscillation: regional temperatures and precipitation. Science 269(5224):676–679CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Ingram WJ (2002) On the robustness of the water vapor feedback: GCM vertical resolution and formulation. J Clim 15(9):917–921CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Jones RG, Murphy JM, Noguer M, Keen AB (1997) Simulation of climate change over Europe using a nested regional-climate model. II: comparison of driving and regional model responses to a doubling of carbon dioxide. Q J R Meteorol Soc 123:265–292Google Scholar
  14. Jones RG, Noguer M, Hassell DC, Hudson D, Wilson SS, Jenkins GJ, Mitchell JFB (2004) Generating high resolution climate change scenarios using PRECIS. Met Office Hadley Centre, ExeterGoogle Scholar
  15. Joshi MM, Gregory JM, Webb MJ, Sexton DMH, Johns TC (2008) Mechanisms for the land/sea warming contrast exhibited by simulations of climate change. Clim Dyn 30:455–465. doi:10.1007/s00382-007-0306-1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Kendon EJ, Rowell DP, Jones RG, Buonomo E (2008) Robustness of future changes in local precipitation extremes. J Clim 21:4280–4297. doi:10.1175/2008JCLI2082.1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Manabe S, Spelman MJ, Stouffer RJ (1992) Transient response of a coupled ocean-atmosphere model to gradual changes of atmospheric CO2. Part II. Seasonal response. J Clim 5:105–126CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. May W (2007) Potential future changes in the characteristics of daily precipitation in Europe simulated by the HIRHAM regional climate model. Clim Dyn. doi: 10.1007/s00382-007-0309-y
  19. Meehl GA, Stocker TF, Collins WD, Friedlingstein P, Gaye AT, Gregory JM, Kitoh A, Knutti R, Murphy JM, Noda A, Raper SCB, Watterson IG, Weaver AJ, Zhao Z (2007) Global climate projections. In: Solomon S, Qin D, Manning M, Chen Z, Marquis M, Averyt KB, Tignor M, Miller HL (eds) Climate change 2007: the physical science basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Cambridge University PressGoogle Scholar
  20. Murphy JM, Sexton DMH, Barnett DN, Jones GS, Webb MJ, Collins M, Stainforth DA (2004) Quantification of modelling uncertainties in a large ensemble of climate change simulations. Nature 430:768–772CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Pall P, Allen MR, Stone DA (2007) Testing the Clausius-Clapeyron constraint on changes in extreme precipitation under CO2 warming. Clim Dyn 28:351–363CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Rind D, Goldberg R, Hansen J, Rosenzweig C, Ruedy R (1990) Potential evapotranspiration and the likelihood of future drought. J Geophys Res 95:9983–10004CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Rowell DP (2009) Projected midlatitude continental summer drying: North America versus Europe. J Clim 22:2813–2833CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Rowell DP (2005) A scenario of European climate change for the late 21st century: seasonal means and interannual variability. Clim Dyn 25:837–849CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Rowell DP, Jones RG (2006) Causes and uncertainty of future summer drying over Europe. Clim Dyn 27:281–299CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Schär C, Luthi D, Beyerle U (1999) The soil-precipitation feedback: a process study with a regional climate model. J Clim 12:722–741CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Solomon S, Qin D, Manning M, Chen Z, Marquis M, Averyt KB, Tignor M, Miller HL (eds) (2007) Climate change 2007: the physical science basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University PressGoogle Scholar
  28. Stephenson DB, Pavan V, Collins M, Junge MM, Quadrelli R (2006) North Atlantic Oscillation response to transient greenhouse gas forcing and the impact on European winter climate: a CMIP2 multi-model assessment. Clim Dyn 27(4):401–420CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. von Storch H, Zwiers FW (1999) Statistical analysis in climate research. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Trenberth KE (1999) Conceptual framework for changes of extremes of the hydrological cycle with climate change. Clim Change 42:327–339CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. van Ulden AP, van Oldenborgh GJ (2006) Large-scale atmospheric circulation biases and changes in global climate model simulations and their importance for climate change in central Europe. Atmos Chem Phys 6:863–881CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Wetherald RT, Manabe S (1995) The mechanisms of summer dryness induced by greenhouse warming. J Clim 8:3096–3108CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Crown Copyright 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth Jane Kendon
    • 1
  • David P. Rowell
    • 1
  • Richard G. Jones
    • 2
  1. 1.Met Office Hadley CentreExeterUK
  2. 2.Met Office Hadley Centre (Reading Unit), Meteorology BuildingUniversity of ReadingReadingUK

Personalised recommendations