Analysis of precipitation extremes with the assessment of regional climate models over the Willamette River Basin, USA


Correspondence to: Hamid Moradkhani, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Portland State University, Portland, OR, USA.



An appropriate, rapid and effective response to extreme precipitation and any potential flood disaster is essential. Providing an accurate estimate of future changes to such extreme events due to climate change are crucial for responsible decision making in flood risk management given the predictive uncertainties. The objective of this article is to provide a comparison of dynamically downscaled climate models simulations from multiple model including 12 different combinations of General Circulation Model (GCM)–regional climate model (RCM), which offers an abundance of additional data sets. The three major aspects of this study include the bias correction of RCM scenarios, the application of a newly developed performance metric and the extreme value analysis of future precipitation. The dynamically downscaled data sets reveal a positive overall bias that is removed through quantile mapping bias correction method. The added value index was calculated to evaluate the models' simulations. Results from this metric reveal that not all of the RCMs outperform their host GCMs in terms of correlation skill. Extreme value theory was applied to both historic, 1980–1998, and future, 2038–2069, daily data sets to provide estimates of changes to 2- and 25-year return level precipitation events. The generalized Pareto distribution was used for this purpose. The Willamette River basin was selected as the study region for analysis because of its topographical variability and tendency for significant precipitation. The extreme value analysis results showed significant differences between model runs for both historical and future periods with considerable spatial variability in precipitation extremes. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.