Short-duration precipitation extremes over Canada in a warmer climate

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Short-duration precipitation extremes are widely used in the design of engineering infrastructure systems and they also lead to high impact flash flood events and landslides. Better understanding of these events in a changing climate is therefore critical. This study assesses characteristics of short-duration precipitation extremes of 1-, 3-, 6- and 12-h durations in terms of the precipitation-temperature (P–T) relationship in current and future climates for ten Canadian climatic regions using the limited area version of the global environment multiscale (GEM) model. The GEM simulations, driven by ERA-Interim reanalysis and two coupled global climate models (CanESM2 and MPI-ESM), reproduce the general observed regional P–T relationship characteristics in current climate (1981–2010), such as sub-CC (Clausius–Clapeyron) and CC scalings for the coastal and northern, and inland regions, respectively, albeit with some underestimation. Analysis of the transient climate change simulations suggests important shifts and/or extensions of the P–T curve to higher temperature bins in future climate (2071–2100) for RCP4.5 and 8.5 scenarios, particularly for 1-h duration. Analysis of the spatial patterns of dew point depression (temperature minus dew point temperature) and convective available potential energy (CAPE) corresponding to short-duration precipitation extremes for different temperature bins show their changing relative importance from low to high temperature bins. For the low-temperature bins, short-duration precipitation extremes are largely due to high relative humidity, while for high-temperature bins, strong convection due to atmospheric instability brought by surface warming is largely responsible. The analysis thus addresses some of the key knowledge gaps related to the behavior of P–T relationship and associated mechanisms for the Canadian regions.

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This research was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Trottier Institute for Sustainability in Engineering and Design. The GEM simulations considered in this study were performed on the supercomputer managed by Compute Canada and Calcul Québec.

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Correspondence to Seok-Geun Oh.

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Oh, S., Sushama, L. Short-duration precipitation extremes over Canada in a warmer climate. Clim Dyn (2020).

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  • Short-duration precipitation extreme
  • P–T relationship
  • Climate change
  • Canada
  • Global environment multiscale (GEM) model