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A gauge-based sub-daily extreme rainfall climatology for western Europe

Lookup NU author(s): Anna Whitford, Dr Stephen Blenkinsop, Dr David Pritchard, Professor Hayley Fowler



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


© 2023 The Authors. We present here the first climatology of extreme sub-daily rainfall for a large part of western Europe, developed using a newly developed set of sub-daily rainfall indices, derived from a recently created global sub-daily rainfall (GSDR) dataset. The indices describe sub-daily (3-hourly) rainfall extremes in terms of their intensity, frequency and timing. Analysis of the frequency index (number of 3hr periods with >20 mm rain (R3hr20mm)) and a suite of intensity indices including the annual maxima (Rx3hr) and values of the 99.9th percentile at each gauge (R99.9p3hr) indicate a peak in the frequency and intensity of short-duration rainfall extremes in summer across most of western Europe, while areas around the north-west Mediterranean experience the highest intensities and frequencies of 3-hr rainfall in autumn. The index of contribution from 3-h annual maxima to the daily total (Rx3hrP) indicates that these events are often produced by very short-duration or very peaked storms, with a tendency towards a late afternoon or evening peak in the time of occurrence. There are also clear differences in the spatiotemporal occurrence of the sub-daily extremes when compared to extreme daily rainfall indices, which could have repercussions for flood management. Additional analysis of the sub-daily rainfall indices within the context of Köppen-Geiger climate zones indicates Mediterranean-type climate zones experience more intense and more frequent sub-daily extremes, while the intensity of rainfall within cooler climate zones is lower and the most intense events are restricted to summer. The climate zones are found to be a relatively good indicator of the extreme rainfall characteristics that can be expected in a region. Being able to compare sub-daily rainfall characteristics across a wide region in this manner greatly enhances our ability to investigate future variability and change in sub-daily extremes and will aid in high-resolution climate model validation.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Whitford AC, Blenkinsop S, Pritchard D, Fowler HJ

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Weather and Climate Extremes

Year: 2023

Volume: 41

Print publication date: 01/09/2023

Online publication date: 09/06/2023

Acceptance date: 08/06/2023

Date deposited: 03/07/2023

ISSN (electronic): 2212-0947

Publisher: Elsevier BV


DOI: 10.1016/j.wace.2023.100585


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Funder referenceFunder name
NE/S007512/1Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
NE/R01079X/1Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)