J13.5 Precipitation Extremes and Anthropogenically-forced Warming: Considerations for Future Changes in Design Values

Wednesday, 13 January 2016: 9:30 AM
Room 242 ( New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center)
Kenneth E. Kunkel, CICS, Asheville, NC; and J. A. Young

The Third National Climate Assessment states that “increases in the frequency and intensity of extreme precipitation events are projected for all U.S. regions”. While that general statement was made with high confidence, the practical implications for decision-makers are much less clear. In particular, engineering design needs quantitative estimates of probable maximum precipitation (PMP) and intensity-duration-frequency (IDF) values for the future in order to optimize runoff control structures for future climate conditions. This can be realized by simply analyzing the precipitation data from global climate model simulations of the future. However, confidence in the resulting values suffers from the known issues with GCM simulation of precipitation. In addition, skepticism about the accuracy of climate models negatively affects potential adoption of revised values in the engineering design community. We contend that scientists need a multi-pronged approach to develop PMP/IDF values that can be defended, explained, and promoted in order to maximize societal benefits and avoid catastrophic events. This talk will discuss considerations that could/should form the basis for design values. While global-warming induced increases in atmospheric water vapor content are nearly certain and form the foundation for expected increases in extreme precipitation, they most likely will be modulated by changes in global atmospheric dynamics and the consequent effects on local weather system climatology. This can be seen currently in the unexplained regional variations in recent trends in extreme precipitation frequency and intensity. We need to be able to understand recent trends, when greenhouse gas forcing of the climate systems has been rapidly increasing, in order to produce confident projections of future extreme precipitation.
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