Urbanization Impacts on the Summer Heavy Rainfall Climatology over the Eastern United States

Dev Niyogi Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana

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Ming Lei Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana

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Chandra Kishtawal Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana

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Paul Schmid Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana

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Marshall Shepherd University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia

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Abstract

The relationship between rainfall characteristics and urbanization over the eastern United States was examined by analyzing four datasets: daily rainfall in 4593 surface stations over the last 50 years (1958–2008), a high-resolution gridded rainfall product, reanalysis wind data, and a proxy for urban land use (gridded human population data). Results indicate that summer monthly rainfall amounts show an increasing trend in urbanized regions. The frequency of heavy rainfall events has a potential positive bias toward urbanized regions. Most notably, consistent with case studies for individual cities, the climatology of rainfall amounts downwind of urban–rural boundaries shows a significant increasing trend. Analysis of heavy (90th percentile) and extreme (99.5th percentile) rainfall events indicated decreasing trends of heavy rainfall events and a possible increasing trend for extreme rainfall event frequency over urban areas. Results indicate that the urbanization impact was more pronounced in the northeastern and midwestern United States with an increase in rainfall amounts. In contrast, the southeastern United States showed a slight decrease in rainfall amounts and heavy rainfall event frequencies. Results suggest that the urbanization signature is becoming detectable in rainfall climatology as an anthropogenic influence affecting regional precipitation; however, extracting this signature is not straightforward and requires eliminating other dynamical confounding feedbacks.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/EI-D-15-0045.s1.7z.

© 2017 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Dev Niyogi, climate@purdue.edu

This article is included in the Biogeophysical Climate Impacts of Land Use and Land Cover Change (LULCC) special collection.

Abstract

The relationship between rainfall characteristics and urbanization over the eastern United States was examined by analyzing four datasets: daily rainfall in 4593 surface stations over the last 50 years (1958–2008), a high-resolution gridded rainfall product, reanalysis wind data, and a proxy for urban land use (gridded human population data). Results indicate that summer monthly rainfall amounts show an increasing trend in urbanized regions. The frequency of heavy rainfall events has a potential positive bias toward urbanized regions. Most notably, consistent with case studies for individual cities, the climatology of rainfall amounts downwind of urban–rural boundaries shows a significant increasing trend. Analysis of heavy (90th percentile) and extreme (99.5th percentile) rainfall events indicated decreasing trends of heavy rainfall events and a possible increasing trend for extreme rainfall event frequency over urban areas. Results indicate that the urbanization impact was more pronounced in the northeastern and midwestern United States with an increase in rainfall amounts. In contrast, the southeastern United States showed a slight decrease in rainfall amounts and heavy rainfall event frequencies. Results suggest that the urbanization signature is becoming detectable in rainfall climatology as an anthropogenic influence affecting regional precipitation; however, extracting this signature is not straightforward and requires eliminating other dynamical confounding feedbacks.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/EI-D-15-0045.s1.7z.

© 2017 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Dev Niyogi, climate@purdue.edu

This article is included in the Biogeophysical Climate Impacts of Land Use and Land Cover Change (LULCC) special collection.

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