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Publication Date
25 November 2022

Increasing precipitation whiplash in climate change hotspots



Throughout the world, the hydrologic cycle is projected to become more variable due to climate change, posing challenges in semi-arid regions with high water resource vulnerability. Precipitation whiplash results from hydrologic variability, and refers to interannual shifts between wet (⩾80th historical percentile) and dry (⩽20th historical percentile) years. Using five model large ensembles, we show that whiplash is projected to increase in frequency (25%–60%) and intensity (30%–100%) by 2100 across several semi-arid regions of the globe, including Western North America and the Mediterranean. These changes can be driven by increases in the frequency of wet years or dry years, or both, depending on the region. Moisture budget calculations in these regions illuminate the physical mechanisms behind increased whiplash. Thermodynamic changes generally dominate, with modulations by dynamics, evaporation, and eddies on regional or global scales. These findings highlight increasingly volatile hydrology in semi-arid regions as the 21st Century progresses.

Chen, Di, Jesse Norris, Chad William Thackeray, and Alex Hall. 2022. “Increasing Precipitation Whiplash In Climate Change Hotspots”. Environmental Research Letters 17 (12). IOP Publishing: 124011. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/aca3b9.
Funding Program Area(s)
Additional Resources:
NERSC (National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center)