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Downturn in scaling of UK extreme rainfall with temperature for future hottest days

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



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Nature Publishing Group, 2016.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


Extreme daily precipitation is thought to increase with temperature at a rate of 6.5% per K according to the Clausius-Clapeyron relationship between temperature and saturation vapour pressure(1). A wide range of scaling relationships has been observed globally for extreme daily and hourly precipitation, with evidence of scaling above 6.5% per K for sub-daily extreme precipitation in some regions(2-4). Only high-resolution climate models can simulate this scaling relationship(5). Here we examine the scaling of hourly extreme precipitation intensities in a future climate using experiments with a model for the southern UK with kilometre-scale resolution(6). Our model simulates the present-day scaling relationship at 6.5% per K, in agreement with observations. The simulated overall future increase in extreme precipitation follows the same relationship. However, UK extreme precipitation intensities decline at temperatures above about 22 degrees C-a temperature range that is not well sampled in the present-day integration-as a result of a more frequent occurrence of anticyclonic weather systems. Anticyclones produce more days with strong daytime heating, but are not favourable to the development of deep intense convective storms. We conclude that future extreme hourly precipitation intensities cannot simply be extrapolated from present-day temperature scaling, and demonstrate the pitfalls of using regional surface temperature as a scaling variable.

Publication metadata

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

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Nature Geosciences

Year: 2016

Volume: 9

Issue: 1

Pages: 24-28

Print publication date: 01/01/2016

Online publication date: 30/11/2015

Acceptance date: 19/10/2015

Date deposited: 19/08/2016

ISSN (print): 1752-0894

ISSN (electronic): 1752-0908

Publisher: Nature Publishing Group


DOI: 10.1038/NGEO2596


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Funder referenceFunder name
Newcastle University
Wolfson Foundation
ERC-2013-CoGEuropean Research Council
GA01101Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs
GA01101Department of Energy and Climate Change
NE/I006680/1United Kingdom NERC Changing Water Cycle programme
WM140025Royal Society as a Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award