Predicted Changes in the Frequency of Extreme Precipitable Water Vapor Events

Roman, J., B. Knuteson, S. Ackerman, and H. Revercomb (2015), Predicted Changes in the Frequency of Extreme Precipitable Water Vapor Events, J. Climate, 28, 7057-7070,

A high amount of precipitable water vapor (PWV) is a necessary requirement for heavy precipitation and extreme flooding events. This study determined the predicted shift in extreme PWV from a set of CMIP5 global climate models using the highest emission scenario over three different spatial resolutions (global, zonal, and regional) and four different case regions (India, China, Europe, and eastern United States). For the globe, the frequency of the extreme 1% of PWV events between 2006 and 2030 was predicted to increase by a median factor (herein called an X factor) of 9 by 2075–99. Areas of high PWV, like the tropics, tended toward higher factors. The annual median X factor for India, China, central Europe, and the eastern United States was 24, 17, 15, and 16, respectively. For India, the minimum median X factor was 10 during December–February (DJF) and the maximum was 48 during June–August (JJA). In China, the minimum median X factor (8) occurred during DJF, and the maximum was 42 in JJA. For Europe, DJF and September–November (SON) had the smallest median X factor of 15, whereas JJA had the largest median X factor of 30. The smallest median X factor for the eastern United States (11) occurred during March–May (MAM), whereas the largest median X factor (32) occurred in JJA. Regional X factors were significantly larger than global (1.5–2 times larger), illustrating the importance of regional assessments of extreme PWV. The mean trend in the extreme PWV was approximately linear for all regions with a slope of about 3% decade−1. Observations for 10 (20) years are needed for the extreme PWV to change by an amount that exceeds a 3% (5%) measurement error.

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Radiation Science Program (RSP)