Future changes in the transitions of monthly-to-seasonal precipitation extremes over the Midwest in Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 6 models

Liang Chen, Trent W. Ford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Precipitation extremes present significant risks to Midwest agriculture, water resources, and natural ecosystems. Recently, there is growing attention to the transitions of precipitation extremes, or shifts between heavy precipitation and drought, due to their profound environmental and socio-economic impacts. Changes in Midwest precipitation extremes and transitions between extremes over the past few decades have been documented; however, their future changes are still unknown. In this study, we estimate the projected changes in transitions of precipitation extremes in the Midwest based on 17 CMIP6 models. Two Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) based metrics, intra-annual variability and transitions, are used to quantify the magnitude, duration, and frequency of variability and transitions between wet and dry extremes. Compared with the observation-based precipitation datasets, the multimodel ensemble median of CMIP6 can reasonably represent the spatial patterns of SPI extremes and transitions. Climate projections show significantly intensified wet extremes across the Midwest by the end of the century, with a greater increase over the northern Midwest and the Great Lakes region. The short-term SPI also shows intensified dry extremes over the western half of the Midwest. Consequently, there is a significant increase in the magnitude of intra-annual variability in most areas. Projections also suggest more frequent and rapid transitions between the wet and dry extremes, especially over the Great Lakes region and northern Midwest. Seasonally, more frequent transitions from a wet spring to a dry summer (or from a dry fall to a wet winter/spring) are projected to occur; and generally, the wet and dry conditions between the transitions are projected to be more intense compared to the historical period. Furthermore, the intensified precipitation extremes and accelerated transitions are greatly alleviated under a lower emission scenario, implying that future changes in hydroclimate extremes, and impacts thereof, in the Midwest are sensitive to climate change mitigation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)255-274
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Journal of Climatology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023


  • CMIP6
  • Midwest
  • SPI
  • precipitation extremes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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