Despite increasing evidence of intensification of extreme precipitation events associated with a warming climate, the magnitude of peak river flows is decreasing in many parts of the world. To better understand the range of relationships between precipitation extremes and floods, we analyzed annual precipitation extremes and flood events over the contiguous United States from 1980 to 2014. A low correlation (less than 0.2) between changes in precipitation extremes and changes in floods was found, attributable to a small fraction of co-occurrence. The covariation between precipitation extremes and floods is also substantially low, with a majority of catchments having a coefficient of determination of less than 0.5, even among the catchments with a relatively high fraction of annual maxima precipitation that can be linked to floods. The findings indicate a need for more investigations into causal mechanisms driving a nonlinear response of floods to intensified precipitation extremes in a warming climate.
CSS Publication Number:
Geophysical Research Letters
September 14, 2020
Do, Hong X., Yiwen Mei, Andrew Gronewold (2020) “To what extent are changes in flood magnitude related to changes in precipitation extremes?” Geophysical Research Letters 47(18): 1-10.