Future precipitation increase from very high resolution ensemble downscaling of extreme atmospheric river storms in California

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science Advances  15 Jul 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 29, eaba1323
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aba1323


Precipitation extremes will likely intensify under climate change. However, much uncertainty surrounds intensification of high-magnitude events that are often inadequately resolved by global climate models. In this analysis, we develop a framework involving targeted dynamical downscaling of historical and future extreme precipitation events produced by a large ensemble of a global climate model. This framework is applied to extreme “atmospheric river” storms in California. We find a substantial (10 to 40%) increase in total accumulated precipitation, with the largest relative increases in valleys and mountain lee-side areas. We also report even higher and more spatially uniform increases in hourly maximum precipitation intensity, which exceed Clausius-Clapeyron expectations. Up to 85% of this increase arises from thermodynamically driven increases in water vapor, with a smaller contribution by increased zonal wind strength. These findings imply substantial challenges for water and flood management in California, given future increases in intense atmospheric river-induced precipitation extremes.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

View Full Text

Stay Connected to Science Advances