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Keywords:

  • climate change;
  • heavy precipitation;
  • extreme events

[1] Regional climate models (RCMs) from the ENSEMBLES project are analyzed to assess projected changes in 21st century heavy and extreme precipitation events over Europe. A set of 10 RCMs with horizontal grid spacing of 25 km is considered, which are driven by six GCMs under an A1B greenhouse gas scenario. The diagnostics include basic precipitation indices (including mean, wet-day frequency, intensity, and percentile exceedance) and application of generalized extreme value theory for return periods up to 100 years. Changes in precipitation climate between present (1970–1999) and future (2070–2099) conditions are presented on a European scale and in more detail for 11 European regions (mostly in supplemental figures). On the European scale, projections show increases (decreases) in mean amounts and wet-day frequency in northern (southern) Europe. This pattern is oscillating with the seasonal cycle. Changes in extremes exhibit a similar pattern, but increases in heavy events reach much further south. For instance, during spring and fall, much of the Mediterranean is projected to experience decreases in mean precipitation but increases in heavy events. Thus, projected changes in mean and extremes may show different signals. The inter-model spread is partly attributable to a GCM-dependent clustering of the climate change signal, but also affected by RCM uncertainties, in particular in summer. Despite these uncertainties, many of the projected changes are statistically significant and consistent across models. For instance, for the Alps, all models project an intensification of heavy events during fall, and these changes are statistically significant for a majority of the models considered.