Projected intensification of sub-daily and daily rainfall extremes in convection-permitting climate model simulations over North America: implications for future intensity–duration–frequency curves
Convection-permitting climate models have been recommended for use in projecting future changes in local-scale, short-duration rainfall extremes that are of the greatest relevance to engineering and infrastructure design, e.g., as commonly summarized in intensity–duration–frequency (IDF) curves. Based on thermodynamic arguments, it is expected that rainfall extremes will become more intense in the future. Recent evidence also suggests that shorter-duration extremes may intensify more than longer durations and that changes may depend on event rarity. Based on these general trends, will IDF curves shift upward and steepen under global warming? Will long-return-period extremes experience greater intensification than more common events? Projected changes in IDF curve characteristics are assessed based on sub-daily and daily outputs from historical and late 21st century pseudo-global-warming convection-permitting climate model simulations over North America. To make more efficient use of the short model integrations, a parsimonious generalized extreme value simple scaling (GEVSS) model is used to estimate historical and future IDF curves (1 to 24 h durations). Simulated historical sub-daily rainfall extremes are first evaluated against in situ observations and compared with two high-resolution observationally constrained gridded products. The climate model performs well, matching or exceeding performance of the gridded datasets. Next, inferences about future changes in GEVSS parameters are made using a Bayesian false discovery rate approach. Large portions of the domain experience significant increases in GEVSS location (>99 % of grid points), scale (>88 %), and scaling exponent (>39 %) parameters, whereas almost no significant decreases are projected to occur (<1 %, <5 %, and <5 % respectively). The result is that IDF curves tend to shift upward (increases in location and scale), and, with the exception of the eastern US, steepen (increases in scaling exponent), which leads to the largest increases in return levels for short-duration extremes. The projected increase in the GEVSS scaling exponent calls into question stationarity assumptions that form the basis for existing IDF curve projections that rely exclusively on simulations at the daily timescale. When changes in return levels are scaled according to local temperature change, median scaling rates, e.g., for the 10-year return level, are consistent with the Clausius–Clapeyron (CC) relation at 1 to 6 h durations, with sub-CC scaling at longer durations and modest super-CC scaling at sub-hourly durations. Further, spatially coherent but small increases in dispersion – the ratio of scale and location parameters – of the GEVSS distribution are found over more than half of the domain, providing some evidence for return period dependence of future changes in extreme rainfall.