Towards advancing scientific knowledge of climate change impacts on short-duration rainfall extremes

Hayley J. Fowler, Haider Ali, Richard P. Allan, Nikolina Ban, Renaud Barbero, Peter Berg, Stephen Blenkinsop, Nalan Senol Cabi, Steven Chan, Murray Dale, Robert J.H. Dunn, Marie Ekström, Jason P. Evans, Giorgia Fosser, Brian Golding, Selma B. Guerreiro, Gabriele C. Hegerl, Abdullah Kahraman, Elizabeth J. Kendon, Geert LenderinkElizabeth Lewis, Xiaofeng Li, Paul A. O'Gorman, Harriet G. Orr, Katy L. Peat, Andreas F. Prein, David Pritchard, Christoph Schär, Ashish Sharma, Peter A. Stott, Roberto Villalobos-Herrera, Gabriele Villarini, Conrad Wasko, Michael F. Wehner, Seth Westra, Anna Whitford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


A large number of recent studies have aimed at understanding short-duration rainfall extremes, due to their impacts on flash floods, landslides and debris flows and potential for these to worsen with global warming. This has been led in a concerted international effort by the INTENSE Crosscutting Project of the GEWEX (Global Energy and Water Exchanges) Hydroclimatology Panel. Here, we summarize the main findings so far and suggest future directions for research, including: the benefits of convection-permitting climate modelling; towards understanding mechanisms of change; the usefulness of temperature-scaling relations; towards detecting and attributing extreme rainfall change; and the need for international coordination and collaboration. Evidence suggests that the intensity of long-duration (1 day+) heavy precipitation increases with climate warming close to the Clausius-Clapeyron (CC) rate (6-7% K -1), although large-scale circulation changes affect this response regionally. However, rare events can scale at higher rates, and localized heavy short-duration (hourly and sub-hourly) intensities can respond more strongly (e.g. 2 × CC instead of CC). Day-to-day scaling of short-duration intensities supports a higher scaling, with mechanisms proposed for this related to local-scale dynamics of convective storms, but its relevance to climate change is not clear. Uncertainty in changes to precipitation extremes remains and is influenced by many factors, including large-scale circulation, convective storm dynamics andstratification. Despite this, recent research has increased confidence in both the detectability and understanding of changes in various aspects of intense short-duration rainfall. To make further progress, the international coordination of datasets, model experiments and evaluations will be required, with consistent and standardized comparison methods and metrics, and recommendations are made for these frameworks. This article is part of a discussion meeting issue 'Intensification of short-duration rainfall extremes and implications for flash flood risks'.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20190542
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
Issue number2195
StatePublished - Apr 19 2021
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Engineering
  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • General Mathematics


  • Clausius-Clapeyron
  • climate change
  • extreme precipitation
  • flooding
  • short-duration
  • sub-daily


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