Changes in daily precipitation versus intensity under a global warming scenario in two regional climate simulations of the United States show a well-recognized feature of more intense precipitation. More important, by resolving the precipitation intensity spectrum, the changes show a relatively simple pattern for nearly all regions and seasons examined whereby nearly all high-intensity daily precipitation contributes a larger fraction of the total precipitation, and nearly all low-intensity precipitation contributes a reduced fraction. The percentile separating relative decrease from relative increase occurs around the 70th percentile of cumulative precipitation, irrespective of the governing precipitation processes or which model produced the simulation. Changes in normalized distributions display these features much more consistently than distribution changes without normalization.
Further analysis suggests that this consistent response in precipitation intensity may be a consequence of the intensity spectrum’s adherence to a gamma distribution. Under the gamma distribution, when the total precipitation or number of precipitation days changes, there is a single transition between precipitation rates that contribute relatively more to the total and rates that contribute relatively less. The behavior is roughly the same as the results of the numerical models and is insensitive to characteristics of the baseline climate, such as average precipitation, frequency of rain days, and the shape parameter of the precipitation’s gamma distribution. Changes in the normalized precipitation distribution give a more consistent constraint on how precipitation intensity may change when climate changes than do changes in the nonnormalized distribution. The analysis does not apply to extreme precipitation for which the theory of statistical extremes more likely provides the appropriate description.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/william-gutowski/38/