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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  04 Aug 2020

04 Aug 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal ESSD.

Return levels of sub-daily extreme precipitation over Europe

Benjamin Poschlod1, Ralf Ludwig1, and Jana Sillmann2 Benjamin Poschlod et al.
  • 1Department of Geography, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Munich, 80333, German
  • 2Center for International Climate and Environmental Research (CICERO), Oslo, 0318, Norway

Abstract. Information on the frequency and intensity of extreme precipitation is required by public authorities, civil security departments and engineers for the design of buildings and the dimensioning of water management and drainage schemes. Especially for sub-daily resolution, at which many extreme precipitation events occur, the observational data are sparse in space and time, distributed heterogeneously over Europe and often not publicly available. We therefore consider it necessary to provide an impact-orientated data set of 10-year rainfall return levels over Europe based on climate model simulations and evaluate its quality. Hence, to standardize procedures and provide comparable results, we apply a high-resolution single-model large ensemble (SMILE) of the Canadian Regional Climate Model version 5 (CRCM5) with 50 members in order to assess the frequency of heavy precipitation events over Europe between 1980 and 2009. The application of a SMILE enables a robust estimation of extreme rainfall return levels with the 50 members of 30-year climate simulations providing 1500 years of rainfall data. As the 50 members only differ due to the internal variability of the climate system, the impact of internal variability on the return level values can be quantified.

We present 10-year rainfall return levels of hourly to 24-hourly duration with a spatial resolution of 0.11° (12.5 km), which are compared to a large data set of observation-based rainfall return levels of 16 European countries. This observation-based data set was newly compiled and homogenized for this study from 32 different sources. The rainfall return levels of the CRCM5 are able to reproduce the general spatial pattern of extreme precipitation for all sub-daily durations with centred Pearson product-moment coefficients of linear correlation > 0.7 for the area covered with observations. Also, the rainfall intensity of the observational data set is in the range of the climate model generated intensities in 52 % (77 %, 79 %, 84 %, 78 %) of the area for hourly (3-hourly, 6-hourly, 12-hourly, 24-hourly) durations. This results in biases between −19.3 % (hourly) to +8.0 % (24-hourly) averaged over the study area. The range, which is introduced by the application of 50 members, shows a spread of −15 % to +18 % around the median.

We conclude that our data set shows good agreement with the observations for 3-hourly to 24-hourly durations in large parts of the study area. Though, for hourly duration and topographically complex regions such as the Alps and Norway, we argue that higher-resolution climate model simulations are needed to improve the results. The 10-year return level data are publicly available (Poschlod, 2020;

Benjamin Poschlod et al.

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Benjamin Poschlod et al.

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10-year return levels of precipitation over Europe based on the CRCM5-LE Benjamin Poschlod

Benjamin Poschlod et al.


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Latest update: 21 Sep 2020
Short summary
This study provides a homogeneous data set of 10-year rainfall return levels based on 50 simulations of the regional climate model CRCM5. In order to evaluate its quality, the return levels are compared to observation-based rainfall return levels of 16 European countries from 32 different sources. The CRCM5 is able to capture the general spatial pattern of observed extreme precipitation, and also the intensity is reproduced in 80% of the area for rainfall durations of 3 hours and longer.
This study provides a homogeneous data set of 10-year rainfall return levels based on 50...