Scaling of extreme rainfall areas at a planetary scale

N. Devineni, U. Lall, C. Xi, P.J. Ward

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Event magnitude and area scaling relationships for rainfall over different regions of the world have been presented in the literature for relatively short durations and over relatively small areas. In this paper, we present the first ever results on a global analysis of the scaling characteristics of extreme rainfall areas for durations ranging from 1 to 30 days. Broken power law models are fit in each case. The past work has been focused largely on the time and space scales associated with local and regional convection. The work presented here suggests that power law scaling may also apply to planetary scale phenomenon, such as frontal and monsoonal systems, and their interaction with local moisture recycling. Such features may have persistence over large areas corresponding to extreme rain and regional flood events. As a result, they lead to considerable hazard exposure. A caveat is that methods used for empirical power law identification have difficulties with edge effects due to finite domains. This leads to problems with robust model identification and interpretability of the underlying relationships. We use recent algorithms that aim to address some of these issues in a principled way. Theoretical research that could explain why such results may emerge across the world, as analyzed for the first time in this paper, is needed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)075407
Early online date12 Jun 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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