Climate extremes directly strike society, infrastructure and the environment. At global scales, they have become more frequent, intense and longer over the last decades. In the context of climate change, this trend is expected to continue, albeit with large regional contrasts. The Mediterranean has been repeatedly identified as one of regions most exposed to climate change on the planet and changes are occurring at faster rates than in most of the globe. While there is a general agreement that the region is undergoing significant warming and drying, and that it will experience progressively more adverse heat-related extremes, there are considerable uncertainties regarding changes in heavy rainfall events. Factors such as their highly local nature, their long return periods, the complexity and interplay of the physical processes involved in their generation, and their departure from total precipitation changes pose great scientific challenges to determine their recent and future evolution.
This project will advance our understanding of precipitation extremes in the western Mediterranean and their response to a changing climate by combining for the first time a breadth of data sources and methodologies that range from observations to next-generation high-resolution ocean-atmosphere coupled models. Innovatively, the proposed research will determine the relationship between temperature increases and precipitation extremes by revising the application of the Clausius-Clapeyron scaling to estimate the intensification of the hydrological cycle. It will also improve our knowledge of changes in dynamical (subsidence, moisture advection, poleward shift of storm tracks, convective updrafts) and thermo-dynamical (evaporation, atmospheric water-holding capacity) mechanisms contributing to changes in extreme rainfall. The project will make use of advanced statistics and the latest numerical modelling techniques to quantify changes in precipitation extremes and establish the potential increased exposure of the western Mediterranean to damaging intense rainfall events.
Outcomes of this project will be a comprehensive understanding of changes in precipitation extremes and quantification of the increased risk of intense precipitation at human-relevant scales. As such, will also generate key knowledge to help improve forecasting systems and ensure that our society is well prepared to face challenges by precipitation extremes.
This project funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation through its research, development and innovation programme (Plan Estatal de Investigación Científica y Técnica y de Innovación 2017-2020) will will advance our knowledge of the processes that govern and alter precipitation extremes under climate change conditions. EPICC will provide information on the future of rainfall extremes in a region that is particularly exposed to climate change and where large uncertainties still exist around future changes in precipitation extremes. The project will also refine current knowledge of precipitation extremes from both statistical and physical viewpoints, and it will help identify priorities in the upcoming development of models to better represent severe weather events