Novel approach to quantifying long-term rainfall distribution variation

Andy Barnes, Ioanna Stamataki

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Climate change is changing rainfall and flood regimes across the world with severe and widespread impacts on society. Rainfall extremes are intensifying in frequency and magnitude due to the effects of climate change, and thus in this research, we introduce a new, novel framework for understanding how rainfall distributions are changing through time, enabling more accurate flood risk analysis. The framework offers two approaches to comparing rainfall distributions, the first of these utilises a stagnant benchmark distribution and the second highlights a moving benchmark approach. When combined the framework enables the identification of significant sudden and gradual changes in the distributions without the need to fit statistical distributions to the data.

The region of Europe is selected as the case study and analysed in the four UN regions of Europe: Northern Europe, Eastern Europe, Southern Europe, and Western Europe. Using daily precipitation data generated using the ERA5 Reanalysis hourly data from the ECMWF’s Copernicus data store, the case study is used to highlight the capability of both frameworks to capture different forms of rainfall distribution shift.

Comparing the frameworks presented revealed similar long term changes in the rainfall variation. The stagnant comparison showed that rainfall distributions have intensified since 1940 with a clear increase across all four regions of Europe regarding the percentage of days with rainfall, averaging at 2.75% across Europe. The largest changes seen are in the last comparison period for Eastern Europe (1960-1975) at 3.07% and in the latest comparison period (2005-2020) for Northern Europe (2.64%). The moving comparison method unveiled the strongest changes between the periods 1940-1960 and 1960-1980 with an average of 2.09% of rainfall days being intensified across all Europe. The most considerable shifts in rainfall variability occurred in Eastern (2.39%) and Western Europe (2.72%) during the 1960-1980 period.

By applying it over the European region, this paper demonstrated how this novel approach can be used to identify long-term rainfall variation in the 20th century. The suggested frameworks do not rely on fitting statistical distributions and thus enable both long and short term change identification, providing flood risk managers a new solution to understanding local, regional and global rainfall variability and quantification. The analysis of the changing dynamics of precipitation patterns and the increase of the intensity of precipitation events, offers considerable potential for further investigations in the mitigation strategies of a resilient future.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2024
EventEuropean Geoscience Union 24 - Vienna, Austria
Duration: 14 Apr 202419 Apr 2024


ConferenceEuropean Geoscience Union 24
Internet address


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