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Journal Article

Have precipitation extremes and annual totals been increasing in the world’s dry regions over the last 60 years?

MPS-Authors
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Sippel,  Sebastian
Empirical Inference of the Earth System, Dr. Miguel D. Mahecha, Department Biogeochemical Integration, Dr. M. Reichstein, Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Max Planck Society;
IMPRS International Max Planck Research School for Global Biogeochemical Cycles, Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Max Planck Society;

/persons/resource/persons62402

Heimann,  Martin
Department Biogeochemical Systems, Prof. M. Heimann, Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Max Planck Society;

/persons/resource/persons62472

Mahecha,  Miguel D.
Empirical Inference of the Earth System, Dr. Miguel D. Mahecha, Department Biogeochemical Integration, Dr. M. Reichstein, Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Max Planck Society;

/persons/resource/persons62524

Reichstein,  Markus
Department Biogeochemical Integration, Dr. M. Reichstein, Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Max Planck Society;

External Resource
Fulltext (public)

BGC2506D.pdf
(Publisher version), 540KB

BGC2506.pdf
(Publisher version), 3MB

Supplementary Material (public)

BGC2506s.zip
(Supplementary material), 2KB

Citation

Sippel, S., Zscheischler, J., Heimann, M., Lange, H., Mahecha, M. D., van Oldenborgh, G. J., et al. (2017). Have precipitation extremes and annual totals been increasing in the world’s dry regions over the last 60 years? Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 21(1), 441-458. doi:10.5194/hess-21-441-2017.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-002B-47B5-9
Abstract
Daily rainfall extremes and annual totals have increased in large parts of the global land area over the last decades. These observations are consistent with theoretical considerations of a warming climate. However, until recently these global tendencies have not been shown to consistently affect land regions with limited moisture availability. A recent study, published by Donat et al. (2016), now identified rapid increases in globally aggregated dry region daily extreme rainfall and annual rainfall totals. Here, we reassess the respective analysis and find that a) statistical artifacts introduced by the choice of the reference period prior to data standardization lead to an overestimation of the reported trends by up to 40%, and also that b) the definition of ‘dry regions of the globe’ affect the reported globally aggregated trends in extreme rainfall. Using the same observational dataset, but accounting for the statistical artifacts and using alternative, well-established dryness definitions, we find no significant increases in heavy precipitation in the world’s dry regions. Adequate data pre-processing approaches and accounting for uncertainties regarding the definition of dryness are crucial to the quantification of spatially aggregated trends in the world’s dry regions. In view of the high relevance of the question to many potentially affected stakeholders, we call for a cautionary consideration of specific data processing methods, including issues related to the definition of dry areas, to guarantee robustness of communicated climate change relevant findings.