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Extreme events in a warmer climate: more rain, less snow, and implications for adaptation

Presentation Date
Thursday, December 14, 2023 at 9:02am - Thursday, December 14, 2023 at 9:12am
MC - 2010 - West



Global warming intensifies precipitation extremes with an average rate of 7% per 1 degree Celsius of warming, due to the increased atmospheric holding capacity of water vapor. However, it remains largely unknown whether the proportion of precipitation extremes falling as rain (as opposed to snow) increases at a similar or higher rate. Understanding changes in rainfall extremes is vital, as they substantially raise the risk of hazardous events such as floods, landslides, and soil erosion. In this study, we demonstrate that the increase in rainfall extremes is amplified, reaching values as high as 15% per 1 degree Celsius of warming in high elevation and snow-dominated regions of the Northern Hemisphere. The increase is evident in both climate reanalysis data from the past record and climate model projections under various warming scenarios. Furthermore, our results reveal that model uncertainty regarding projections of rainfall extremes primarily stems from differences in the models' representation of the snow fraction in precipitation extremes. We conclude this talk by discussing the implications of our findings on the resilience of infrastructure and agriculture, water resources management and climate change adaptation strategies in regions vulnerable to amplified increase in rainfall extremes.

Funding Program Area(s)