Evaluation of changes in dry and wet precipitation extremes in warmer climates using a passive water vapor modelling approach

This is a Preprint and has not been peer reviewed. The published version of this Preprint is available: https://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-22-0048.1. This is version 1 of this Preprint.


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Marie-Pier Labonté , Timothy M Merlis 


Hydroclimatic extremes, such as heavy daily rainfall and dry spells, are expected to intensify under anthropogenic warming. Often, these changes are diagnostically related to thermodynamic increases in humidity with warming. Here, we develop a framework that uses an on-line calculation of the thermodynamically induced changes of the full precipitation distribution with warming in an idealized moist atmospheric general circulation model. Two water vapor variables, the standard active one and an additional passive one (i.e., no latent heat release when condensation occurs), are advected by the resolved circulation. The passive water vapor is thermodynamically perturbed by modifying the saturation specific humidity used in the calculation of its condensation tendency and surface evaporation. The difference between the precipitation of the perturbed passive water vapor relative to the control one corresponds to the thermodynamic component of precipitation change, which can be evaluated for the entire distribution. Here, we evaluate wet and dry extremes. Our simulations have tropical increases and higher latitude decrease of dry spells' length (defined as the maximum consecutive dry days), as found in the zonal-mean of comprehensive models. This simulated thermodynamically induced intensification of dry spells in the tropics arises from the decreased contrast between sea surface temperature and surface air temperature with warming. The simulated increase in heavy daily rainfall (e.g., the 99.9th percentile of the daily precipitation distribution) at all latitudes differs modestly from a previous theory that assumes moist adiabatic stratification and increased warming aloft slightly damps the simulated increase, as the theory suggests.




Climate, Oceanography and Atmospheric Sciences and Meteorology


extreme events, Precipitation, hydrologic cycle


Published: 2022-01-21 23:20

Last Updated: 2022-01-22 07:20


CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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