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Temperature influences on intense UK hourly precipitation and dependency on large-scale circulation

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Stephen Blenkinsop, Dr Steven ChanORCiD, Professor Hayley Fowler



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Short periods of intense rainfall may be associated with significant impacts on society, particularly urban flooding. Climate model projections have suggested an intensification of precipitation under scenarios of climate change. This is in accordance with the hypothesis that precipitation intensities will increase with temperature according to the thermodynamic Clausius-Clapyeron (CC) relation (a rate of similar to 6-7%degrees C-1)-a warmer atmosphere being capable of holding more moisture. Consequently, CC scaling between temperature and extreme precipitation has been demonstrated in numerous studies and in different locations, with higher than CC scaling (so-called super CC scaling) observed for sub-daily extremes. Here we use a new dataset of UK hourly precipitation to identify seasonal scaling relationships between mean daily temperature and 99th percentile hourly precipitation intensities. Pooling the data for the whole UK indicates only slightly higher than CC scaling in spring and summer at higher temperatures, notably less than the 2xCC scaling observed in other regions. Both the highest hourly intensities and the highest scaling in the UK occur in summer and so for this season the dependency of the scaling relationship on large scale circulation conditions is examined using a set of air flow indices. A shear vorticity index (indicative of large-scale flow cyclonicity) is noted to have the greatest influence on the relationship, approaching 2xCC at higher temperatures when shear vorticity is negative (anticyclonic rotation). An examination of the occurrence of intense events indicates that these can occur under cyclonic and anticyclonic conditions but that in the southeast of England the latter conditions disproportionately favour their occurrence. These results suggest that changes in circulation regimes could modify the expected changes in precipitation intensities prescribed by CC scaling and arising as a consequence of future warming.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Blenkinsop S, Chan SC, Kendon EJ, Roberts NM, Fowler HJ

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Environmental Research Letters

Year: 2015

Volume: 10

Issue: 5

Online publication date: 22/05/2015

Acceptance date: 05/05/2015

Date deposited: 14/07/2015

ISSN (electronic): 1748-9326

Publisher: IOP Publishing Ltd.


DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/10/5/054021


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Funder referenceFunder name
Joint Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC)
Wolfson Foundation
GA01101Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) Met Office Hadley Centre Climate Programme
NE/I006680/1United Kingdom NERC Changing Water Cycle programme
NE/K008595/1NERC-funded SINATRA project
WM140025Royal Society as a Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award