Heavy Daily Precipitation Events in the CMIP6 Worst-Case scenario: Projected Twenty-First-Century Changes
Heavy precipitation is often the trigger for flooding and landslides, leading to significant societal and economic impacts, ranging from fatalities to damage to the infrastructures to loss of crops and livestock. Therefore, it is critical that we have a better understanding of how it may be changing in the future. Based on model projections from the phase 3 and 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP3 and CMIP5), future daily precipitation is likely to increase in intensity. The main goal of this study is to examine possible improvements in the representation of intense and extreme precipitation by a new set of climate models contributing to the phase 6 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP6) effort, and to quantify its projected changes under the highest emissions scenario by the end of the current century (i.e., SSP5-8.5). Daily precipitation data from six CMIP6 models were analyzed that have a nominal horizontal grid spacing around 100 km and provide data for the highest emissions scenario SSP5-8.5. Two of the six CMIP6 models overestimate the extreme precipitation (defined as the 99th percentile of the precipitation distribution) in the tropics, leading to large biases in the right tail of the daily precipitation over the tropics. Consistent with the CMIP5 results, the CMIP6 models projected increased heavy daily precipitation and increased width of the right tail of the precipitation distribution associated with increased water vapor content.