Climate change is expected to influence the occurrence and magnitude of rainfall extremes and hence the flood risks in cities. Major impacts of an increased pluvial flood risk are expected to occur at hourly and sub-hourly resolutions. This makes convective storms the dominant rainfall type in relation to urban flooding. The present study focuses on high-resolution regional climate model (RCM) skill in simulating sub-daily rainfall extremes. Temporal and spatial characteristics of output from three different RCM simulations with 25 km resolution are compared to point rainfall extremes estimated from observed data. The applied RCM data sets represent two different models and two different types of forcing. Temporal changes in observed extreme point rainfall are partly reproduced by the RCM RACMO when forced by ERA40 re-analysis data. Two ECHAM forced simulations show similar increases in the occurrence of rainfall extremes of over a 150-year period, but significantly different changes in the magnitudes. The physical processes behind convective rainfall extremes generate a distinctive spatial inter-site correlation structure for extreme events. All analysed RCM rainfall extremes, however, show a clear deviation from this correlation structure for sub-daily rainfalls, partly because RCM output represents areal rainfall intensities and partly due to well-known inadequacies in the convective parameterization of RCMs. The results highlight the problem urban designers are facing when using RCM output. The paper takes the first step towards a methodology by which RCM performance and other downscaling methods can be assessed in relation to the simulation of short-duration rainfall extremes.
Climatic Change, 2013, Vol 118, Issue 3-4, p. 783-797