Observed Changes in Extreme Precipitation Associated with U.S. Tropical Cyclones

John Uehling aCooperative Institute for Satellite Earth System Studies, North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies, North Carolina State University, Asheville, North Carolina

Search for other papers by John Uehling in
Current site
Google Scholar
PubMed
Close
https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4306-4405
and
Carl J. Schreck III aCooperative Institute for Satellite Earth System Studies, North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies, North Carolina State University, Asheville, North Carolina

Search for other papers by Carl J. Schreck III in
Current site
Google Scholar
PubMed
Close
Restricted access

Abstract

Numerous recent tropical cyclones have caused extreme rainfall and flooding events in the CONUS. Climate change is contributing to heavier extreme rainfall around the world. Modeling studies have suggested that tropical cyclones may be particularly efficient engines for transferring the additional water vapor in the atmosphere into extreme rainfall. This paper develops a new indicator for climate change using the enhanced rainfall metric to evaluate how the frequency and/or intensity of extreme rainfall around tropical cyclones has changed. The enhanced rainfall metric relates the amount of rain from a storm over a given location to the 5-yr return period rainfall in that location to determine the severity of the event. The annual area exposed to tropical-cyclone-related 5-yr rainfall events is increasing, which makes it a compelling climate change indicator. Quantile regression illustrates that the distribution of tropical cyclone rainfall is also changing. For tropical storms, all quantiles are increasing. However, major hurricanes show large increases in their most extreme rainfall. This study does not attempt to make any detection claims (vs natural variability) or attribution of the observed trends to anthropogenic forcing. However, the sensitivity of the results to natural variability in tropical cyclone frequency was somewhat constrained by comparing 2 decades from the previous active era (1951–70) with two from the current era (2001–20). This comparison also shows that both the mean rainfall and the maximum rainfall associated with tropical cyclones are increasing over most areas of the eastern CONUS with the most significant increases from northern Alabama to the southern Appalachians.

Significance Statement

The purpose of this study is to analyze the changes in frequency and magnitude of extreme precipitation events associated with tropical cyclones with the goal of developing a new indicator for climate change. This is important because heavy rainfall and associated flooding is one of the primary causes of tropical cyclone destruction and fatalities, especially in inland locations away from where storms initially make landfall. Our results show that both the frequency and magnitude of extreme rainfall events from tropical cyclones have increased over the CONUS. The strongest storms (major hurricanes) also show more of an increase in extreme rainfall than storms of weaker intensities.

© 2024 American Meteorological Society. This published article is licensed under the terms of the default AMS reuse license. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: John Uehling, juehlin@ncsu.edu

Abstract

Numerous recent tropical cyclones have caused extreme rainfall and flooding events in the CONUS. Climate change is contributing to heavier extreme rainfall around the world. Modeling studies have suggested that tropical cyclones may be particularly efficient engines for transferring the additional water vapor in the atmosphere into extreme rainfall. This paper develops a new indicator for climate change using the enhanced rainfall metric to evaluate how the frequency and/or intensity of extreme rainfall around tropical cyclones has changed. The enhanced rainfall metric relates the amount of rain from a storm over a given location to the 5-yr return period rainfall in that location to determine the severity of the event. The annual area exposed to tropical-cyclone-related 5-yr rainfall events is increasing, which makes it a compelling climate change indicator. Quantile regression illustrates that the distribution of tropical cyclone rainfall is also changing. For tropical storms, all quantiles are increasing. However, major hurricanes show large increases in their most extreme rainfall. This study does not attempt to make any detection claims (vs natural variability) or attribution of the observed trends to anthropogenic forcing. However, the sensitivity of the results to natural variability in tropical cyclone frequency was somewhat constrained by comparing 2 decades from the previous active era (1951–70) with two from the current era (2001–20). This comparison also shows that both the mean rainfall and the maximum rainfall associated with tropical cyclones are increasing over most areas of the eastern CONUS with the most significant increases from northern Alabama to the southern Appalachians.

Significance Statement

The purpose of this study is to analyze the changes in frequency and magnitude of extreme precipitation events associated with tropical cyclones with the goal of developing a new indicator for climate change. This is important because heavy rainfall and associated flooding is one of the primary causes of tropical cyclone destruction and fatalities, especially in inland locations away from where storms initially make landfall. Our results show that both the frequency and magnitude of extreme rainfall events from tropical cyclones have increased over the CONUS. The strongest storms (major hurricanes) also show more of an increase in extreme rainfall than storms of weaker intensities.

© 2024 American Meteorological Society. This published article is licensed under the terms of the default AMS reuse license. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: John Uehling, juehlin@ncsu.edu

Supplementary Materials

    • Supplemental Materials (PDF 86.482 MB)
Save
  • Balaguru, K., G. R. Foltz, L. R. Leung, W. Xu, D. Kim, H. Lopez, and R. West, 2022: Increasing hurricane intensification rate near the US Atlantic coast. Geophys. Res. Lett., 49, e2022GL099793, https://doi.org/10.1029/2022GL099793.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bhatia, K. T., G. A. Vecchi, T. R. Knutson, H. Murakami, J. Kossin, K. W. Dixon, and C. E. Whitlock, 2019: Recent increases in tropical cyclone intensification rates. Nat. Commun., 10, 635, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-08471-z.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Blake, E. S., and D. A. Zelinsky, 2018: National Hurricane Center tropical cyclone report: Hurricane Harvey (17 August–1 September 2017). NHC Tech. Rep. AL092017, 77 pp.

  • Booth, B. B. B., N. J. Dunstone, P. R. Halloran, T. Andrews, and N. Bellouin, 2012: Aerosols implicated as a prime driver of twentieth-century North Atlantic climate variability. Nature, 484, 228232, https://doi.org/10.1038/nature10946.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bosma, C. D., D. B. Wright, P. Nguyen, J. P. Kossin, D. C. Herndon, and J. M. Shepherd, 2020: An intuitive metric to quantify and communicate tropical cyclone rainfall hazard. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 101, E206E220, https://doi.org/10.1175/BAMS-D-19-0075.1.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Cerveny, R. S., and L. E. Newman, 2000: Climatological relationships between tropical cyclones and rainfall. Mon. Wea. Rev., 128, 33293336, https://doi.org/10.1175/1520-0493(2000)128<3329:CRBTCA>2.0.CO;2.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Chalise, D. R., A. Aiyyer, and A. Sankarasubramanian, 2021: Tropical cyclones’ contribution to seasonal precipitation and streamflow over the southeastern and southcentral United States. Geophys. Res. Lett., 48, e2021GL094738, https://doi.org/10.1029/2021GL094738.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Chan, K. T. F., J. C. L. Chan, K. Zhang, and Y. Wu, 2022: Uncertainties in tropical cyclone landfall decay. npj Climate Atmos. Sci., 5, 93, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41612-022-00320-z.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Daly, C., and National Center for Atmospheric Research Staff, Eds., 2023: The Climate Data Guide: PRISM high-resolution spatial climate data for the United States: Max/min temp, dewpoint, precipitation, accessed 26 April 2023, https://climatedataguide.ucar.edu/climate-data/prism-high-resolution-spatial-climate-data-united-states-maxmin-temp-dewpoint.

  • Durre, I., A. Arguez, C. J. Schreck III, M. F. Squires, and R. S. Vose, 2022: Daily high-resolution temperature and precipitation fields for the contiguous United States from 1951 to present. J. Atmos. Oceanic Technol., 39, 18371855, https://doi.org/10.1175/JTECH-D-22-0024.1.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Emanuel, K., 2005: Increasing destructiveness of tropical cyclones over the past 30 years. Nature, 436, 686688, https://doi.org/10.1038/nature03906.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Emanuel, K., 2017: Assessing the present and future probability of Hurricane Harvey’s rainfall. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 114, 12 68112 684, https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1716222114.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Goldenberg, S. B., C. W. Landsea, A. M. Mestas-Nuñez, and W. M. Gray, 2001: The recent increase in Atlantic hurricane activity: Causes and implications. Science, 293, 474479, https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1060040.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gori, A., N. Lin, D. Xi, and K. Emanuel, 2022: Tropical cyclone climatology change greatly exacerbates US extreme rainfall–surge hazard. Nat. Climate Change, 12, 171178, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-021-01272-7.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Guzman, O., and H. Jiang, 2021: Global increase in tropical cyclone rain rate. Nat. Commun., 12, 5344, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-25685-2.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hall, T. M., and J. P. Kossin, 2019: Hurricane stalling along the North American coast and implications for rainfall. npj Climate Atmos. Sci., 2, 17, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41612-019-0074-8.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hart, R. E., D. R. Chavas, and M. P. Guishard, 2016: The arbitrary definition of the current Atlantic major hurricane landfall drought. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 97, 713722, https://doi.org/10.1175/BAMS-D-15-00185.1.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • IPCC, 2023: Annex I: Glossary. Climate Change 2023: Synthesis Report, A. Reisinger et al., Eds., IPCC, 119–130, https://doi.org/10.59327/IPCC/AR6-9789291691647.

  • Jarvinen, B. R., C. J. Neumann, and M. A. S. Davis, 1984: A tropical cyclone data tape for the North Atlantic basin, 1886–1983: Contents, limitations, and uses. NOAA Tech. Memo. NWS NHC 22, 21 pp.

  • Jiang, H., and E. J. Zipser, 2010: Contribution of tropical cyclones to the global precipitation from eight seasons of TRMM data: Regional, seasonal, and interannual variations. J. Climate, 23, 15261543, https://doi.org/10.1175/2009JCLI3303.1.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Klotzbach, P. J., and W. M. Gray, 2008: Multidecadal variability in North Atlantic tropical cyclone activity. J. Climate, 21, 39293935, https://doi.org/10.1175/2008JCLI2162.1.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Klotzbach, P. J., S. G. Bowen, R. Pielke Jr., and M. Bell, 2018: Continental U.S. hurricane landfall frequency and associated damage: Observations and future risks. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 99, 13591376, https://doi.org/10.1175/BAMS-D-17-0184.1.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Knutson, T. R., and Coauthors, 2010: Tropical cyclones and climate change. Nat. Geosci., 3, 157163, https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo779.

  • Knutson, T., and Coauthors, 2020: Tropical cyclones and climate change assessment: Part II: Projected response to anthropogenic warming. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 101, E303E322, https://doi.org/10.1175/BAMS-D-18-0194.1.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Knutson, T. R., J. J. Sirutis, M. Zhao, R. E. Tuleya, M. Bender, G. A. Vecchi, G. Villarini, and D. Chavas, 2015: Global projections of intense tropical cyclone activity for the late twenty-first century from dynamical downscaling of CMIP5/RCP4.5 scenarios. J. Climate, 28, 72037224, https://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-15-0129.1.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kossin, J. P., 2018: A global slowdown of tropical-cyclone translation speed. Nature, 558, 104107, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-018-0158-3.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kossin, J. P., 2019: Reply to: Moon, I.-J. et al.; Lanzante, J. R. Nature, 570, E16E22, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-019-1224-1.

  • Kunkel, K. E., and S. M. Champion, 2019: An assessment of rainfall from Hurricanes Harvey and Florence relative to other extremely wet storms in the United States. Geophys. Res. Lett., 46, 13 50013 506, https://doi.org/10.1029/2019GL085034.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kunkel, K. E., D. R. Easterling, D. A. R. Kristovich, B. Gleason, L. Stoecker, and R. Smith, 2010: Recent increases in U.S. heavy precipitation associated with tropical cyclones. Geophys. Res. Lett., 37, L24706, https://doi.org/10.1029/2010GL045164.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Landsea, C. W., 2018: Hurricane Harvey’s rainfall and global warming. NOAA, 8 pp., http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/Landsea/harvey-global-warming.pdf.

  • Landsea, C. W., and J. L. Franklin, 2013: Atlantic hurricane database uncertainty and presentation of a new database format. Mon. Wea. Rev., 141, 35763592, https://doi.org/10.1175/MWR-D-12-00254.1.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Lavender, S. L., and J. L. McBride, 2021: Global climatology of rainfall rates and lifetime accumulated rainfall in tropical cyclones: Influence of cyclone basin, cyclone intensity and cyclone size. Int. J. Climatol., 41, E1217E1235, https://doi.org/10.1002/joc.6763.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Leopold, L. B., 1968: Hydrology for urban land planning: A guidebook on the hydrologic effects of urban land use. USGS Circular 554, 18 pp., https://doi.org/10.3133/cir554.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Li, L., and P. Chakraborty, 2020: Slower decay of landfalling hurricanes in a warming world. Nature, 587, 230234, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-2867-7.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Liu, M., G. A. Vecchi, J. A. Smith, and T. R. Knutson, 2019: Causes of large projected increases in hurricane precipitation rates with global warming. npj Climate Atmos. Sci., 2, 38, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41612-019-0095-3.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mann, H. B., 1945: Nonparametric tests against trend. Econometrica, 13, 245259, https://doi.org/10.2307/1907187.

  • Maxwell, J. T., J. C. Bregy, S. M. Robeson, P. A. Knapp, P. T. Soulé, and V. Trouet, 2021: Recent increases in tropical cyclone precipitation extremes over the US east coast. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 118, e2105636118, https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2105636118.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mazza, E., and S. S. Chen, 2023: Tropical cyclone rainfall climatology, extremes and flooding potential from remote sensing and reanalysis datasets over the continental United States. J. Hydrometeor., 24, 15491562, https://doi.org/10.1175/JHM-D-22-0199.1.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Menne, M. J., I. Durre, R. S. Vose, B. E. Gleason, and T. G. Houston, 2012: An overview of the Global Historical Climatology Network-daily database. J. Atmos. Oceanic Technol., 29, 897910, https://doi.org/10.1175/JTECH-D-11-00103.1.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Nogueira, R. C., and B. D. Keim, 2011: Contributions of Atlantic tropical cyclones to monthly and seasonal rainfall in the eastern United States 1960–2007. Theor. Appl. Climatol., 103, 213227, https://doi.org/10.1007/s00704-010-0292-9.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Patricola, C. M., and M. F. Wehner, 2018: Anthropogenic influences on major tropical cyclone events. Nature, 563, 339346, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-018-0673-2.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Prat, O. P., and B. R. Nelson, 2013: Precipitation contribution of tropical cyclones in the southeastern United States from 1998 to 2009 using TRMM satellite data. J. Climate, 26, 10471062, https://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-11-00736.1.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Prat, O. P., and B. R. Nelson, 2016: On the link between tropical cyclones and daily rainfall extremes derived from global satellite observations. J. Climate, 29, 61276135, https://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-16-0289.1.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Rappaport, E. N., 2014: Fatalities in the United States from Atlantic tropical cyclones: New data and interpretation. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 95, 341346, https://doi.org/10.1175/BAMS-D-12-00074.1.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Reed, K. A., M. F. Wehner, A. M. Stansfield, and C. M. Zarzycki, 2021: Anthropogenic influence on Hurricane Dorian’s extreme rainfall. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 102, S9S15, https://doi.org/10.1175/BAMS-D-20-0160.1.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Reed, K. A., M. F. Wehner, and C. M. Zarzycki, 2022: Attribution of 2020 hurricane season extreme rainfall to human-induced climate change. Nat. Commun., 13, 1905, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-022-29379-1.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Risser, M. D., and M. F. Wehner, 2017: Attributable human-induced changes in the likelihood and magnitude of the observed extreme precipitation during Hurricane Harvey. Geophys. Res. Lett., 44, 12 45712 464, https://doi.org/10.1002/2017GL075888.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Schreck, C. J., III, P. J. Klotzbach, and M. M. Bell, 2021: Optimal climate normals for North Atlantic hurricane activity. Geophys. Res. Lett., 48, e2021GL092864, https://doi.org/10.1029/2021GL092864.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Shearer, E. J., V. A. Gorooh, P. Nguyen, K.-L. Hsu, and S. Sorooshian, 2022: Unveiling four decades of intensifying precipitation from tropical cyclones using satellite measurements. Sci. Rep., 12, 13569, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-17640-y.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Stansfield, A. M., and K. A. Reed, 2023: Global tropical cyclone precipitation scaling with sea surface temperature. npj Climate Atmos. Sci., 6, 60, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41612-023-00391-6.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Stansfield, A. M., K. A. Reed, and C. M. Zarzycki, 2020: Changes in precipitation from North Atlantic tropical cyclones under RCP scenarios in the variable-resolution Community Atmosphere Model. Geophys. Res. Lett., 47, e2019GL086930, https://doi.org/10.1029/2019GL086930.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Stevens, L. E., M. Kolian, D. Arndt, J. Blunden, E. W. Johnson, A. Y. Liu, and S. Spiegal, 2023: Appendix 4. Indicators. Fifth National Climate Assessment, A. R. Crimmins et al., Eds., U.S. Global Change Research Program, accessed 15 January 2024, https://doi.org/10.7930/NCA5.2023.A4.

  • Stewart, S. R., and R. Berg, 2019: National Hurricane Center tropical cyclone report: Hurricane Florence (AL062018). NHC Tech. Rep., 98 pp.

  • Touma, D., S. Stevenson, S. J. Camargo, D. E. Horton, and N. S. Diffenbaugh, 2019: Variations in the intensity and spatial extent of tropical cyclone precipitation. Geophys. Res. Lett., 46, 13 99214 002, https://doi.org/10.1029/2019GL083452.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Tu, S., J. Xu, J. C. L. Chan, K. Huang, F. Xu, and L. S. Chiu, 2021: Recent global decrease in the inner-core rain rate of tropical cyclones. Nat. Commun., 12, 1948, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-22304-y.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Villarini, G., and G. A. Vecchi, 2012: North Atlantic power dissipation index (PDI) and accumulated cyclone energy (ACE): Statistical modeling and sensitivity to sea surface temperature changes. J. Climate, 25, 625637, https://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-11-00146.1.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Villarini, G., and G. A. Vecchi, 2013: Projected increases in North Atlantic tropical cyclone intensity from CMIP5 models. J. Climate, 26, 32313240, https://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-12-00441.1.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Walsh, K. J. E., and Coauthors, 2016: Tropical cyclones and climate change. Wiley Interdiscip. Rev.: Climate Change, 7, 6589, https://doi.org/10.1002/wcc.371.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Weinkle, J., C. Landsea, D. Collins, R. Musulin, R. P. Crompton, P. J. Klotzbach, and R. Pielke Jr., 2018: Normalized hurricane damage in the continental United States 1900–2017. Nat. Sustainability, 1, 808813, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-018-0165-2.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Wright, D. B., T. R. Knutson, and J. A. Smith, 2015: Regional climate model projections of rainfall from U.S. landfalling tropical cyclones. Climate Dyn., 45, 33653379, https://doi.org/10.1007/s00382-015-2544-y.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Xi, D., S. Wang, and N. Lin, 2023: Analyzing relationships between tropical cyclone intensity and rain rate over the ocean using numerical simulations. J. Climate, 36, 8191, https://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-22-0141.1.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Zhang, R., R. Sutton, G. Danabasoglu, Y.-O. Kwon, R. Marsh, S. G. Yeager, D. E. Amrhein, and C. M. Little, 2019: A review of the role of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation in Atlantic multidecadal variability and associated climate impacts. Rev. Geophys., 57, 316375, https://doi.org/10.1029/2019RG000644.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 788 788 328
Full Text Views 267 267 146
PDF Downloads 345 345 201