Evaluation of modeled changes in extreme precipitation in Europe and the Rhine basin

R. van Haren, G.J. van Oldenborgh, G. Lenderink, W. Hazeleger

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17 Citations (Scopus)


In this study, we investigate the change in multi-day precipitation extremes in late winter in Europe using observations and climate models. The objectives of the analysis are to determine whether climate models can accurately reproduce observed trends and, if not, to find the causes of the difference in trends. Similarly to an earlier finding for mean precipitation trends, and despite a lower signal to noise ratio, climate models fail to reproduce the increase in extremes in much of northern Europe: the model simulations do not cover the observed trend in large parts of this area. A dipole in the sea-level pressure trend over continental Europe causes positive trends in extremes in northern Europe and negative trends in the Iberian Peninsula. Climate models have a much weaker pressure trend dipole and as a result a much weaker ( extreme) precipitation response. The inability of climate models to correctly simulate observed changes in atmospheric circulation is also primarily responsible for the underestimation of trends in the Rhine basin. When it has been adjusted for the circulation trend mismatch, the observed trend is well within the spread of the climate model simulations. Therefore, it is important that we improve our understanding of circulation changes, in particular related to the cause of the apparent mismatch between observed and modeled circulation trends over the past century.
Original languageEnglish
Article number014053
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • climatic change
  • precipitation
  • catchment hydrology
  • models
  • river rhine
  • climate-change simulations
  • reanalysis

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