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Characteristics of autumn-winter extreme precipitation on the Norwegian west coast identified by cluster analysis

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Extremely high autumn and winter precipitation events on the European west coast are often driven by low-pressure systems in the North Atlantic. Climate projections suggest the number and intensity of these events is likely to increase far more than the mean precipitation. In this study we investigate the autumn-winter extreme precipitation on the Norwegian west coast and the connection between its spatial distribution and sea level pressure (SLP) patterns using the k-means cluster analysis. We use three relatively high resolved downscalings of one global coupled model: the Arpège global atmospheric model (stretched grid with 35-km horizontal resolution over Norway) and the WRF-downscaled Arpège model (30 and 10-km) for the 30-year periods of 1961–1990 and 2021–2050. The cluster analysis finds three main SLP patterns responsible for extreme precipitation in different parts of the country. The SLP patterns found are similar to the NAO positive pattern known to strengthen the westerly flow towards European coast. We then apply the method to investigate future change in extreme precipitation. We find an increase in the number of days with extreme precipitation of 15, 39 and 35% in the two simulations (Arpège 35-km and WRF 30 and 10-km, respectively). We do not find evidence of a significant change in the frequency of weather patterns between the present and the future periods. Rather, it is the probability of a given weather pattern to cause extreme precipitation which is increased in the future, probably due to higher temperatures and an increased moisture content of the air. The WRF model predicts the increase in this probability caused by the most important SLP patterns to be >50%. The Arpège model does not predict such a significant change because the general increase in extreme precipitation predicted is smaller, probably due to its coarser resolution over ocean which leads to smoother representation of the low pressure systems.

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The authors acknowledge the Bergen Center for Computational Science for the computing facilities and time.

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Correspondence to U. Heikkilä.

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Heikkilä, U., Sorteberg, A. Characteristics of autumn-winter extreme precipitation on the Norwegian west coast identified by cluster analysis. Clim Dyn 39, 929–939 (2012).

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