Heavy precipitation is highly sensitive to the magnitude of future warming
- 2.1k Downloads
Heavy precipitation exerts strong societal and economic impacts, including flooding, and these precipitation events are projected to increase under anthropogenic warming. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Paris Agreement signed in December 2015 aims to limit the global average temperature rise to below 2 °C above preindustrial levels, with an added goal of limiting temperature increases to 1.5 °C. There remains a major knowledge gap related to our understanding of changes in heavy precipitation under the 1.5 and 2 °C warming targets. Here, we investigate the changes in heavy precipitation events with the Community Earth System Model (CESM) climate experiments using the scenarios consistent with the 1.5 and 2 °C temperature targets. We find that the frequency of annual heavy precipitation at a global scale increases in both 1.5 and 2 °C scenarios until around 2070, after which the magnitudes of the trend become much weaker or even negative. Overall, the annual frequency of heavy precipitation across the globe is similar between 1.5 and 2 °C for the period 2006–2035, and the changes in heavy precipitation in individual seasons are consistent with those for the entire year. The frequency of heavy precipitation in the 2 °C experiments is higher than for the 1.5 °C experiment after the late 2030s, particularly for the period 2071–2100. While the results of both experiments indicate that the warming targets in the Paris Agreement, if met, would be effective in reducing the frequency of heavy precipitation (2 °C target minus 1.5 °C target), they also suggest a lower risk of global heavy precipitation under the 1.5 °C target of about 33% for the period 2071–2100.
We appreciate two anonymous reviewers for insightful comments which improved the quality of this paper. This material is based upon work supported in part by the Broad Agency Announcement Program and the Engineer Research and Development Center–Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory under Contract W913E5-16-C-0002, the National Science Foundation under CAREER Grant AGS-1349827, IIHR-Hydroscience & Engineering, and the Iowa Flood Center. We gratefully acknowledge Rhawn Denniston’s guidance and suggestions.
- Alexander LV et al (2006) Global observed changes in daily climate extremes of temperature and precipitation. J Geophys Res: Atmos:111. https://doi.org/10.1029/2005JD006290
- Houghton JT (1996) Climate change 1995: the science of climate change: contribution of working group I to the second assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, vol 2. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
- Secretariat, U., 2015: Report on the structured expert dialogue on the 2013–2015 review. United Nations Office at GenevaGoogle Scholar
- Sillmann J, Kharin VV, Zhang X, Zwiers FW, Bronaugh D (2013) Climate extremes indices in the CMIP5 multimodel ensemble: part 1. Model evaluation in the present climate. J Geophys Res: Atmos 118:1716–1733Google Scholar
- Stocker, T. F., D. Qin, G.-K. Plattner, M. Tignor, S. K. Allen, J. Boschung, A. Nauels, Y. Xia, B. Bex, and B. Midgley, 2013: IPCC, 2013: climate change 2013: the physical science basis. Contribution of working group I to the fifth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change, edited, Cambridge: Cambridge University PressGoogle Scholar
- UNFCCC, 2015: Report on the Structured Expert Dialogue on the 2013–2015 Review FCCC/SB/2015/INF.1Google Scholar
- van der Wiel K, Kapnick SB, Vecchi GA, Cooke WF, Delworth TL, Jia L, Murakami H, Underwood S, Zeng F (2016) The resolution dependence of contiguous U.S. precipitation extremes in response to CO2 forcing. J Climate 29:7991–8012 https://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-16-0307.1