Analyses for High-Resolution Projections Through the End of the 21st Century for Precipitation Extremes Over the United States

Zachary Zobel, Jiali Wang, Donald J. Wuebbles, V. Rao Kotamarthi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study compares an ensemble of dynamically downscaled projections of extreme daily precipitation over the contiguous United States (CONUS). With a grid spacing of 12 km and a domain that encompasses most of North America, we use the Weather Research and Forecast model as a regional climate model. We incorporate initial and boundary conditions from three different Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 Earth system models (ESMs). We focus on precipitation extremes in the future climate (2045–2054 and 2085–2094) by comparing a business-as-usual high-emissions scenario to emissions from a historical period (1995–2004). In the historical period, the Weather Research and Forecasting-downscaled simulations result in significant improvements over the ESMs for precipitation extremes. In the analyses of future climate, there is a large increase in the projected frequency of extreme precipitation events over the entire CONUS and a decrease in median precipitation days. Moreover, most regions show an increase in the number of dry days in the future scenarios. The magnitude of extreme precipitation events is projected to increase in the CONUS at all temperatures above freezing. The strongest precipitation events will increase in intensity, primarily because of a shift in precipitation distribution due to the increase in near-surface air temperatures (Clausius-Claperyon relationship). However, these events are also affected by changes in some atmospheric dynamical factors, such as stronger low level jet, especially over the Midwestern United States. In addition, compared to those calculated by the ESMs, the downscaled projections show important regional differences in the frequency and magnitude of extreme precipitation events.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1471-1490
Number of pages20
JournalEarth's Future
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2018


  • United States
  • climate
  • downscaling
  • extreme precipitation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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