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Detecting changes in seasonal precipitation extremes using regional climate model projections: Implications for managing fluvial flood risk

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Hayley Fowler



There is growing evidence of coherent, global patterns of change in annual precipitation and runoff with high latitudes experiencing increases consistent with climate model projections. This paper describes a methodology for estimating detection times for changes in seasonal precipitation extremes. The approach is illustrated using changes in UK precipitation projected by the European Union PRUDENCE climate model ensemble. We show that because of high variability from year to year and confounding factors, detection of anthropogenic climate change at regional scales is not generally expected for decades to come. Overall, the earliest detection times were found for 10 day winter precipitation totals with 10 year return period in SW England. In this case, formal detection could be possible within a decade from now if the climate model projections are realized. The outlook for changes in summer flash flood risk is highly uncertain. Our analysis further demonstrates that existing precautionary allowances for climate change used for flood management may not be sufficiently robust in NE England and east Scotland. These findings imply that for certain types of flood mechanism, adaptation decisions might have to be taken in advance of formally detected changes in flood risk. This reinforces the case for long-term environmental monitoring and reporting of climate change indices at "sentinel" locations.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Fowler HJ, Wilby RL

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Water Resources Research

Year: 2010

Volume: 46

Issue: 3

Print publication date: 01/03/2010

Date deposited: 17/05/2010

ISSN (print): 0043-1397

ISSN (electronic): 1944-7973

Publisher: American Geophysical Union


DOI: 10.1029/2008WR007636


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Funder referenceFunder name
21717Environment Agency