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Claire Burke and Peter Stott

Abstract

The East Asian summer monsoon (EASM) is important for bringing rainfall to large areas of China. Historically, variations in the EASM have had major impacts including flooding and drought. The authors present an analysis of the impact of anthropogenic climate change on EASM rainfall in eastern China using a newly updated attribution system. The results suggest that anthropogenic climate change has led to an overall decrease in total monsoon rainfall over the past 65 years and an increased number of dry days. However, the model also predicts that anthropogenic forcings have caused the most extreme heavy rainfall events to become shorter in duration and more intense. With the potential for future changes in aerosol and greenhouse gas emissions, historical trends in monsoon rainfall may not be indicative of future changes, although extreme rainfall is projected to increase over East Asia with continued warming in the region.

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Shuangmei Ma, Tianjun Zhou, Dáithí A. Stone, Debbie Polson, Aiguo Dai, Peter A. Stott, Hans von Storch, Yun Qian, Claire Burke, Peili Wu, Liwei Zou, and Andrew Ciavarella

Abstract

Changes in precipitation characteristics directly affect society through their impacts on drought and floods, hydro-dams, and urban drainage systems. Global warming increases the water holding capacity of the atmosphere and thus the risk of heavy precipitation. Here, daily precipitation records from over 700 Chinese stations from 1956 to 2005 are analyzed. The results show a significant shift from light to heavy precipitation over eastern China. An optimal fingerprinting analysis of simulations from 11 climate models driven by different combinations of historical anthropogenic (greenhouse gases, aerosols, land use, and ozone) and natural (volcanic and solar) forcings indicates that anthropogenic forcing on climate, including increases in greenhouse gases (GHGs), has had a detectable contribution to the observed shift toward heavy precipitation. Some evidence is found that anthropogenic aerosols (AAs) partially offset the effect of the GHG forcing, resulting in a weaker shift toward heavy precipitation in simulations that include the AA forcing than in simulations with only the GHG forcing. In addition to the thermodynamic mechanism, strengthened water vapor transport from the adjacent oceans and by midlatitude westerlies, resulting mainly from GHG-induced warming, also favors heavy precipitation over eastern China. Further GHG-induced warming is predicted to lead to an increasing shift toward heavy precipitation, leading to increased urban flooding and posing a significant challenge for mega-cities in China in the coming decades. Future reductions in AA emissions resulting from air pollution controls could exacerbate this tendency toward heavier precipitation.

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