Precipitation variability encompasses attributes associated with the sequencing and duration of events of the full range of magnitudes. However, climate change studies have largely focused on extreme events. Using analyses of long-term weather station data, we show that high frequency events, such as fraction of wet days in a year and average duration of wet and dry periods, are undergoing significant changes across North America. Further, these changes are more prevalent and larger than those associated with extremes. Such trends also exist for events of a range of magnitudes. Existence of localized clusters with opposing trend to that of broader geographic variation illustrates the role of microclimate and other drivers of trends. Such hitherto unknown patterns over the entire North American continent have the potential to significantly inform our characterization of the resilience and vulnerability of a broad range of ecosystems and agricultural and socio-economic systems. They can also set new benchmarks for climate model assessments.
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