Climate change scenarios for precipitation extremes in Portugal

Ana Cristina Costa, João A. Santos, Joaquim G. Pinto

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Precipitation indices are commonly used as climate change indicators. Considering four Climate Variability and Predictability-recommended indices, this study assesses possible changes in their spatial patterns over Portugal under future climatic conditions. Precipitation data from the regional climate model Consortium for Small-Scale Modelling-Climate version of the Local Model (CCLM) ensemble simulations with ECHAM5/MPI-OM1 boundary conditions are used for this purpose. For recent-past, medians and probability density functions of the CCLM-based indices are validated against station-based and gridded observational dataset from ENSEMBLES-based (gridded daily precipitation data provided by the European Climate Assessment & Dataset project) indices. It is demonstrated that the model is able to realistically reproduce not only precipitation but also the corresponding extreme indices. Climate change projections for 2071-2100 (A1B and B1 SRES scenarios) reveal significant decreases in total precipitation, particularly in autumn over northwestern and southern Portugal, though changes exhibit distinct local and seasonal patterns and are typically stronger for A1B than for B1. The increase in winter precipitation over northeastern Portugal in A1B is the most important exception to the overall drying trend. Contributions of extreme precipitation events to total precipitation are also expected to increase, mainly in winter and spring over northeastern Portugal. Strong projected increases in the dry spell lengths in autumn and spring are also noteworthy, giving evidence for an extension of the dry season from summer to spring and autumn. Although no coupling analysis is undertaken, these changes are qualitatively related to modifications in the large-scale circulation over the Euro-Atlantic area, more specifically to shifts in the position of the Azores High and associated changes in the large-scale pressure gradient over the area.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)217-234
Number of pages18
JournalTheoretical And Applied Climatology
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2012

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