Increased Occurrence of Record-Wet and Record-Dry Months Reflect Changes in Mean Rainfall

J. Lehmann, F. Mempel, D. Coumou

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Abstract

Climate change alters the hydrological cycle, which is expected to increase the risk of heavy rainfall events and prolonged droughts. Sparse rainfall data, however, have made it difficult to answer the question of whether robust changes can already be seen in the short observational time period. Here we use a comprehensive statistical tool to quantify changes in record-breaking wet and dry months. The global-mean number of record-wet months has significantly increased over the recent decades and is now nearly 20% higher than would be expected in a stationary climate with no long-term trends. This signal primarily comes from pronounced changes in the northern middle to high latitudes where the occurrence of record-wet months has increased by up to 37% regionally. The tropics have seen opposing trends: More record-wet months in Southeast Asia in contrast to more record-dry months in Africa. These changes are broadly consistent with observed trends in mean rainfall.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13,468-13,476
Number of pages9
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Volume45
Issue number24
Early online date21 Dec 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 28 Dec 2018

Keywords

  • dry records
  • observations
  • rainfall extremes
  • record statistics

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