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

J. Lehmann, F. Mempel, D. Coumou

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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
Issue number24
Early online date21 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - 28 Dec 2018


We thank the Global Precipitation Climatology Centre for making their data available. For this study, GPCC data were retrieved from the website of the German Weather Service (ftp://ftp.dwd. de/pub/data/gpcc/html/fulldata_v7_ doi_download.html). The work was supported by the German Research Foundation (CO994/2-1) and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (01LN1304A).

FundersFunder number
Deutsche ForschungsgemeinschaftCO994/2-1
Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung01LN1304A


    • dry records
    • observations
    • rainfall extremes
    • record statistics


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