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Total and Extreme Precipitation Changes over the Northeastern United States

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  • 1 Department of Earth Sciences, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire
  • | 2 Department of Geography, and Department of Earth Sciences, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire
  • | 3 Department of Earth Sciences, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire
  • | 4 Center for Climate Systems Research, Columbia University, and NASA Goddard Institute of Space Studies, New York, New York
  • | 5 Department of Plant Biology, University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont
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Abstract

The northeastern United States has experienced a large increase in precipitation over recent decades. Annual and seasonal changes of total and extreme precipitation from station observations in the Northeast were assessed over multiple time periods spanning 1901–2014. Spatially averaged, both annual total and extreme precipitation across the Northeast increased significantly since 1901, with changepoints occurring in 2002 and 1996, respectively. Annual extreme precipitation experienced a larger increase than total precipitation; extreme precipitation from 1996 to 2014 is 53% higher than from 1901 to 1995. Spatially, coastal areas receive more total and extreme precipitation on average, but increases across the changepoints are distributed fairly uniformly across the domain. Increases in annual total precipitation across the 2002 changepoint are driven by significant total precipitation increases in fall and summer, while increases in annual extreme precipitation across the 1996 changepoint are driven by significant extreme precipitation increases in fall and spring. The ability of gridded observed and reanalysis precipitation data to reproduce station observations was also evaluated. Gridded observations perform well in reproducing averages and trends of annual and seasonal total precipitation, but extreme precipitation trends show significantly different spatial and domain-averaged trends than station data. The North American Regional Reanalysis generally underestimates annual and seasonal total and extreme precipitation means and trends relative to station observations, and also shows substantial differences in the spatial pattern of total and extreme precipitation trends within the Northeast.

© 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: Huanping Huang, huanping.huang.gr@dartmouth.edu

Abstract

The northeastern United States has experienced a large increase in precipitation over recent decades. Annual and seasonal changes of total and extreme precipitation from station observations in the Northeast were assessed over multiple time periods spanning 1901–2014. Spatially averaged, both annual total and extreme precipitation across the Northeast increased significantly since 1901, with changepoints occurring in 2002 and 1996, respectively. Annual extreme precipitation experienced a larger increase than total precipitation; extreme precipitation from 1996 to 2014 is 53% higher than from 1901 to 1995. Spatially, coastal areas receive more total and extreme precipitation on average, but increases across the changepoints are distributed fairly uniformly across the domain. Increases in annual total precipitation across the 2002 changepoint are driven by significant total precipitation increases in fall and summer, while increases in annual extreme precipitation across the 1996 changepoint are driven by significant extreme precipitation increases in fall and spring. The ability of gridded observed and reanalysis precipitation data to reproduce station observations was also evaluated. Gridded observations perform well in reproducing averages and trends of annual and seasonal total precipitation, but extreme precipitation trends show significantly different spatial and domain-averaged trends than station data. The North American Regional Reanalysis generally underestimates annual and seasonal total and extreme precipitation means and trends relative to station observations, and also shows substantial differences in the spatial pattern of total and extreme precipitation trends within the Northeast.

© 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: Huanping Huang, huanping.huang.gr@dartmouth.edu
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