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Publication Date
19 May 2023

Evaluating Contemporary and Future-Scenario Substantial-Precipitation Events in the Missouri River Basin Using Object-Oriented Analysis



The Missouri River Basin is the largest single river basin in the United States, and, as such, it plays an important role in natural ecosystems as well as the country’s economy, through agriculture, hydroelectric power generation, and transportation. Episodes of heavy precipitation can have a substantial negative impact on all these aspects of the basin, so understanding how well these episodes are simulated and projected to change in the future climate is important. We analyzed contemporary and projected mid-century behavior of heavy-precipitation episodes using an object-oriented analysis to diagnose short-term (≥5-day) and extended-period (≥30-day) events with substantial precipitation, using PRISM gridded, observed precipitation and RegCM4 regional-climate simulations that used outputs from two different GCMs for boundary conditions. The simulations were produced for the North American portion of the CORDEX program. A 25 km grid was used for the simulations and for aggregated PRISM precipitation. Overall, the simulated contemporary-climate events compared favorably with the PRISM events’ frequency and duration. The simulated event areas tended to be larger than the areas in the PRISM events, suggesting that the effective resolution of the simulations is greater than 25 km. Event areas and durations change little going from contemporary to scenario climate. The short-term events increase in frequency by an amount commensurate with the increase in mean precipitation simulated for the basis. However, the extended-term events showed little change in frequency, despite the average precipitation increase. Roughly half the extended-period events overlapped with at least one short-term event in both the observations and the simulations. Extended-period events that overlap a short-term event generally have larger areas and longer durations compared to their counterparts with no overlapping short-term events. Understanding the climate dynamics yielding the two types of extended-period events could be useful for assessing future changes in the Missouri River Basin’s heavy precipitation events and their impact.

Fisel, Brandon J., Nathan E. Erickson, Colin R. Young, Ada L. Ellingworth, and William J. Gutowski. 2023. “Evaluating Contemporary And Future-Scenario Substantial-Precipitation Events In The Missouri River Basin Using Object-Oriented Analysis”. Climate 11 (5). MDPI AG: 112. doi:10.3390/cli11050112.
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