Export file:


  • RIS(for EndNote,Reference Manager,ProCite)
  • BibTex
  • Text


  • Citation Only
  • Citation and Abstract

Examination of extreme rainfall events in two regions of the United States since the 19th century

Atmospheric Science, University of Alabama in Huntsville, ESSC, UAH, 320 Sparkman Ave, Huntsville AL, 35805, USA

Topical Section: Precipitation Extremes under Climate Change

A common hypothesis regarding human-induced climate change is that precipitation processes will accelerate leading to an increasing magnitude of rainfall amounts on a daily time scale as the atmosphere warms. This assertion is supported by two physically demonstrable facts, (1) warmer air accommodates more water vapor, and (2) precipitation processes become more efficient as the cloud environment warms. However, by definition, extreme events are rare, and thus statistics of their occurrence and possible long-term changes present difficult challenges, some herein addressed. In any case, the observational datasets on which hypothesis tests may be carried out should cover the longest periods possible because precipitation can naturally vary considerably on even century time scales. In this study we focus on this temporal issue by building long-term daily precipitation datasets for twenty stations, ten along or near the US Pacific Coast (PC) and ten along or near the coast in the US Southeast (SE). Observations for these stations begin between 1840 and 1890 and end in 2018, using the water year (Oct to Sep) to define the annual period. For some metrics, e.g. the annual total precipitation or the number of days per year measuring greater than 25 mm, there is no discernable change over the most recent 145 years (1874–2018). For other metrics, e.g. the magnitude of the wettest day per year or the temporal distribution of the 29 wettest 2-day events in the past 145 years (i.e. nominal 1-in-5-year occurrence), there appears to be an increase in SE and a decrease in PC. Whether these trends are significant for the relatively short climate record of 145 years will be discussed with the conclusion being the limited time frame of analysis does not lead to decisive claims that these changes are outside of the range of natural variability.
  Article Metrics


1. Stocker TF, Qin D, Plattner GK, et al. (2013) Technical Summary. In: Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 115.

2. Boucher O, D Randall, P Artaxo, et al. (2013) Clouds and Aerosols. In: Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

3. Donat MG, Lowry AL, Alexander LV, et al. (2016) More extreme precipitation in the world's dry and wet regions. Nature Clim Ch 6: 508–513.    

4. Guerreiro SG, Fowler HJ, Barbero R, et al. (2018) Detection of continental-scale intensification of hourly rainfall extremes. Nature Clim Ch 8: 803–807.    

5. Mears CA, Smith DK, Ricciardulli L, et al. (2018). Construction and Uncertainty Estimation of a Satellite-Derived Total Precipitable Water Data Record Over the World's Oceans. Earth and Space Science 5: 197–210.    

6. Zhao M, Golaz JC, Held IM, et al. (2016) Uncertainty in model climate sensitivity traced to representations of cumulus precipitation microphysics. J Climate 29: 543–560.

7. Zhang W, Villarini G, Vecchi GA, et al. (2018) Urbanization exacerbated the rainfall and flooding caused by hurricane Harvey in Houston. Nature 563: 384–388.    

8. Hoerling M, Eischeid J, Perlwitz J, et al. (2016) Characterizing recent trends in U.S. heavy precipitation. J Climate 29: 2313–2332.

9. Maleski JJ, Martinez CJ (2018) Coupled impacts of ENSO AMO and PDO on temperature and precipitation in the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa and Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river basins. Int J Climatol 38: e717–e728.    

10. USGCRP (2017) Climate Science Special Report: Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume I. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, USA, 470 pp.,

11. Butler RD, McKee TB ASOS Heated Tipping Bucket performance assessment and impact on precipitation climate continuity. MS thesis. Colorado State University, 1998.

12. Christy JR (2012) Searching for information in 133 years of California snowfall observations. J Hydromet 13: 895–912.    

13. Slater LJ, Villarini G (2016) Recent trends in U.S. flood risk. Geophys Res Lett 43: 12,428–12,436.

14. Hirsch RM, Ryberg KR (2011) Has the magnitude of floods across the USA changed with global CO2 levels? Hydro Sci J 57: 2313–2332.

15. Wolter K, Timlin MS (2011) El Nino/Southern Oscillation behaviour since 1871 as diagnosed in the extended multivariate ENSO index. Intl J Climatology 31: 1–14.    

16. Li J, Xie SP, Cook ER, et al. (2011) Interdecadal modulation of El Niño amplitude during the last millennium. Nature Clim Chng 1: 114–118.    

17. Cook ER, Seager R, Heim RR, et al. 2010. Megadroughts in North America: Placing IPCC projections of hydroclimatic change in a long-term paleoclimate context. J of Quat Sci 25: 48–61.

18. Gille EP, Wahl ER, Vose RS. et al. (2018) Living Blended Drought Atlas (LBDA) Version 2 – recalibrated reconstruction of the United States Summer PMDI over the last 2000 years. NOAA/NCEI.

19. Lindstrom SG (1990) Submerged tree stumps as indicators of Mid-Holocene aridity in the Lake Tahoe region. J Calif Great Basin Anthro 12: 146–157.

© 2019 the Author(s), licensee AIMS Press. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Licese (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)

Download full text in PDF

Export Citation

Article outline

Show full outline
Copyright © AIMS Press All Rights Reserved