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Detecting change in UK extreme precipitation using results from the BBC Climate Change Experiment

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Hayley Fowler



We investigate a question posed by policy makers, namely, “when will changes in extreme precipitation due to climate change be detectable?” To answer this question we use (CPDN) model simulations from the BBC Climate Change Experiment (CCE) over the UK. These provide us with the unique opportunity to compare 1-day extreme precipitation generated from climate altered by observed forcings (time period 1920–2000) and the SRES A1B emissions scenario (time period 2000–2080) (the Scenario) to extreme precipitation generated by a constant climate for year 1920 (the Control) for the HadCM3L General Circulation Model (GCM). We fit non-stationary Generalized Extreme Value (GEV) models to the Scenario output and compare these to stationary GEV models fit to the parallel Control. We define the time of detectable change as the time at which we would reject a hypothesis at the α = 0.05 significance level that the 20-year return level of the two runs is equal. We find that the time of detectable change depends on the season, with most model runs indicating that change to winter extreme precipitation may be detectable by the year 2010, and that change to summer extreme precipitation is not detectable by 2080. We also investigate which climate model parameters affect the weight of the tail of the precipitation distribution and which affect the time of detectable change for the winter season. We find that two climate model parameters have an important effect on the tail weight, and two others seem to affect the time of detection. Importantly, we find that climate model simulated extreme precipitation has a fundamentally different behavior to observations, perhaps due to the negative estimate of the GEV shape parameter, unlike observations which produce a slightly positive (∼0.0–0.2) estimate.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Fowler HJ, Cooley D, Sain SR, Thurston M

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Extremes

Year: 2010

Volume: 13

Issue: 2

Pages: 241-267

Print publication date: 04/02/2010

Date deposited: 25/05/2010

ISSN (print): 1386-1999

ISSN (electronic): 1572-915X

Publisher: Springer New York LLC


DOI: 10.1007/s10687-010-0101-y


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Funder referenceFunder name
National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado
Weather and Climate Impact Assessment Science Program at the National Center for Atmospheric Research
ATM-0534173National Science Foundation (NSF)
ATM-0502977National Science Foundation (NSF)
DMS-0905315National Science Foundation (NSF)