Conditional heavy-tail behavior with applications to precipitation and river flow extremes

  • Paul KinsvaterEmail author
  • Roland Fried
Original Paper


This article deals with the right-tail behavior of a response distribution \(F_Y\) conditional on a regressor vector \({\mathbf {X}}={\mathbf {x}}\) restricted to the heavy-tailed case of Pareto-type conditional distributions \(F_Y(y|\ {\mathbf {x}})=P(Y\le y|\ {\mathbf {X}}={\mathbf {x}})\), with heaviness of the right tail characterized by the conditional extreme value index \(\gamma ({\mathbf {x}})>0\). We particularly focus on testing the hypothesis \({\mathscr {H}}_{0,tail}:\ \gamma ({\mathbf {x}})=\gamma _0\) of constant tail behavior for some \(\gamma _0>0\) and all possible \({\mathbf {x}}\). When considering \({\mathbf {x}}\) as a time index, the term trend analysis is commonly used. In the recent past several such trend analyses in extreme value data have been published, mostly focusing on time-varying modeling of location or scale parameters of the response distribution. In many such environmental studies a simple test against trend based on Kendall’s tau statistic is applied. This test is powerful when the center of the conditional distribution \(F_Y(y|{\mathbf {x}})\) changes monotonically in \({\mathbf {x}}\), for instance, in a simple location model \(\mu ({\mathbf {x}})=\mu _0+x\cdot \mu _1\), \({\mathbf {x}}=(1,x)'\), but the test is rather insensitive against monotonic tail behavior, say, \(\gamma ({\mathbf {x}})=\eta _0+x\cdot \eta _1\). This has to be considered, since for many environmental applications the main interest is on the tail rather than the center of a distribution. Our work is motivated by this problem and it is our goal to demonstrate the opportunities and the limits of detecting and estimating non-constant conditional heavy-tail behavior with regard to applications from hydrology. We present and compare four different procedures by simulations and illustrate our findings on real data from hydrology: weekly maxima of hourly precipitation from France and monthly maximal river flows from Germany.


Heavy tails Extreme value index Regression model Relative excesses Flood frequency Precipitation 



We would like to thank Professor Andreas Schumann from the Department of Civil Engineering, Ruhr-University Bochume, Germany, for providing us hydrological data and for helpful discussions. We are also grateful to two anonymous referees and an Associate Editor for their constructive comments on an earlier version of our work. The financial support of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (SFB 823, “Statistical modelling of nonlinear dynamic processes”) is gratefully acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of StatisticsTU DortmundDortmundGermany

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