Heavy precipitation

Indicator Specification
Indicator codes: CLIM 004
Created 04 Jan 2017 Published 04 Jan 2017 Last modified 06 Jan 2017
Heavy precipitation is defined as the maximum annual five-day consecutive precipitation. Trends are calculated for the period between 1960 and 2015. Projected changes in heavy precipitation are defined as changes in the 95th percentile of daily precipitation (only days with precipitation >1 mm/day are considered). Changes between two periods 1971-2000 and 2071-2100 are calculated by using a multi-model ensemble forced by RCP8.5.

Assessment versions

Published (reviewed and quality assured)

Rationale

Justification for indicator selection

Changes in the frequency and magnitude of heavy precipitation events can have considerable impacts on society, including agriculture, industry and ecosystem services. An assessment of past trends and future projections of heavy precipitation is therefore essential for advising policy decisions on mitigation and adaptation to climate change. The risks posed by heavy precipitation hazards, such as flooding events (including cloud burst and flash floods) are also influenced by non-climatic factors, such as population density, floodplain development and land-use changes. Hence, estimates of future changes in such risks need to consider changes in both climatic and non-climatic factors. 

Scientific references

  • Trends in European Precipitation Extremes over 1951–2010. E. J. M. van den Besselaar, A. M. G. Klein Tank, and T. A. Buishand “Trends in European Precipitation Extremes over 1951–2010” International Journal of Climatology 33, no. 12 (2013): 2682–2689, doi:10.1002/joc.3619.
  • Projections of Extreme Precipitation Events in Regional Climate Simulations for Europe and the Alpine Region. J. Rajczak, P. Pall, and C. Schär, “Projections of Extreme Precipitation Events in Regional Climate Simulations for Europe and the Alpine Region,” Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres 118, no. 9 (2013): 3610–3626, doi:10.1002/jgrd.50297;
  • IPCC, Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation. IPCC, Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation. Special Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, ed. C. B. Field et al. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), chap. 3
  • IPCC, 2014: Europe. Kovats, R.S., R. Valentini, L.M. Bouwer, E. Georgopoulou, D. Jacob, E. Martin, M. Rounsevell, and J.-F. Soussana, 2014: Europe. In: Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Part B: Regional Aspects. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Barros, V.R., C.B. Field, D.J. Dokken, M.D. Mastrandrea, K.J. Mach, T.E. Bilir, M. Chatterjee, K.L. Ebi, Y.O. Estrada, R.C. Genova, B. Girma, E.S. Kissel, A.N. Levy, S. MacCracken, P.R. Mastrandrea, and L.L. White (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, pp. 1267-1326.
  • EURO-CORDEX: new high-resolution climate change projections for European impact research.  D. Jacob et al. 2014. EURO-CORDEX: new high-resolution climate change projections for European impact research. Regional Environmental Change, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp 563-578.
  • Extreme Weather Events in Europe: preparing for climate change adaptation. Ø. Hov, U. Cubasch, E. Fischer, P. Höppe, T. Iversen, N.G.  Kvamstø, Z. W. Kundzewicz, D. Rezacova, D. Rios, F. Duarte Santos, B. Schädler, O. Veisz, C. Zerefos, R. Benestad, J. Murlis, M. Donat, G. C. Leckebusch, U. Ulbrich. Extreme Weather Events in Europe: preparing for climate change adaptation (2013). Report produced by Norwegian Meteorological Institute in cooperation with EASAC
  • Change in intense precipitation in Europe. Zolina, O., 2012. Change in intense precipitation in Europe, in: Kundzewicz, Z.W. (Ed.), Changes in Flood Risk in Europe. Special Publication No.10. IAHS Press, Wallingford, Oxfordshire, UK

Indicator definition

Heavy precipitation is defined as the maximum annual five-day consecutive precipitation. Trends are calculated for the period between 1960 and 2015.

Projected changes in heavy precipitation are defined as changes in the 95th percentile of daily precipitation (only days with precipitation >1 mm/day are considered). Changes between two periods 1971-2000 and 2071-2100 are calculated by using a multi-model ensemble forced by RCP8.5.

Units

  • Trends in heavy precipitation (mm/decade)
  • Changes in projected heavy precipitation (%)

Policy context and targets

Context description

In April 2013 the European Commission presented the EU Adaptation Strategy Package (http://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/adaptation/what/documentation_en.htm). This package consists of the EU Strategy on adaptation to climate change /* COM/2013/0216 final */ and a number of supporting documents. One of the objectives of the EU Adaptation Strategy is Better informed decision-making, which should occur through Bridging the knowledge gap and Further developing Climate-ADAPT as the ‘one-stop shop’ for adaptation information in Europe. Further objectives include Promoting action by Member States and Climate-proofing EU action: promoting adaptation in key vulnerable sectors. Many EU Member States have already taken action, such as by adopting national adaptation strategies, and several have also prepared action plans on climate change adaptation.

The European Commission and the European Environment Agency have developed the European Climate Adaptation Platform (Climate-ADAPT, http://climate-adapt.eea.europa.eu/) to share knowledge on observed and projected climate change and its impacts on environmental and social systems and on human health; on relevant research; on EU, national and subnational adaptation strategies and plans; and on adaptation case studies.

In September 2016, the EC presented an indicative roadmap for the evaluation of the EU Adaptation Strategy by 2018.

In November 2013, the European Parliament and the European Council adopted the 7th EU Environment Action Programme (7th EAP) to 2020, ‘Living well, within the limits of our planet’. The 7th EAP is intended to help guide EU action on environment and climate change up to and beyond 2020. It highlights that ‘Action to mitigate and adapt to climate change will increase the resilience of the Union’s economy and society, while stimulating innovation and protecting the Union’s natural resources.’ Consequently, several priority objectives of the 7th EAP refer to climate change adaptation.

Targets

No targets have been specified.

Related policy documents

  • 7th Environment Action Programme
    DECISION No 1386/2013/EU OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 20 November 2013 on a General Union Environment Action Programme to 2020 ‘Living well, within the limits of our planet’. In November 2013, the European Parliament and the European Council adopted the 7 th EU Environment Action Programme to 2020 ‘Living well, within the limits of our planet’. This programme is intended to help guide EU action on the environment and climate change up to and beyond 2020 based on the following vision: ‘In 2050, we live well, within the planet’s ecological limits. Our prosperity and healthy environment stem from an innovative, circular economy where nothing is wasted and where natural resources are managed sustainably, and biodiversity is protected, valued and restored in ways that enhance our society’s resilience. Our low-carbon growth has long been decoupled from resource use, setting the pace for a safe and sustainable global society.’
  • Climate-ADAPT: Mainstreaming adaptation in EU sector policies
    Overview of EU sector policies in which mainstreaming of adaptation to climate change is ongoing or explored
  • Climate-ADAPT: National adaptation strategies
    Overview of activities of EEA member countries in preparing, developing and implementing adaptation strategies
  • DG CLIMA: Adaptation to climate change
    Adaptation means anticipating the adverse effects of climate change and taking appropriate action to prevent or minimise the damage they can cause, or taking advantage of opportunities that may arise. It has been shown that well planned, early adaptation action saves money and lives in the future. This web portal provides information on all adaptation activities of the European Commission.
  • EU Adaptation Strategy Package
    In April 2013, the European Commission adopted an EU strategy on adaptation to climate change, which has been welcomed by the EU Member States. The strategy aims to make Europe more climate-resilient. By taking a coherent approach and providing for improved coordination, it enhances the preparedness and capacity of all governance levels to respond to the impacts of climate change.

Key policy question

What are the past trends and projected changes in heavy precipitation events across Europe?

Methodology

Methodology for indicator calculation

Observed heavy precipitation is defined as maximum precipitation over five consecutive days (Rx5d). Ensemble of RCMs driven by different GCMs all using RCP8.5 scenario has been used to calculate changes in heavy precipitation and dry spells.

Projected heavy precipitation is defined as the 95th percentile of daily precipitation (only days with precipitation >1 mm/day are considered).

Trends are calculated using a median of pairwise slopes algorithm. Black dots represent high confidence in the sign of the long-term trend in the box (if the 5th to 95th percentile slopes are of the same sign). Boxes which have a thick outline contain at least three stations.

Methodology for gap filling

To accurately assess trends in heavy precipitation at local scales, high-resolution datasets are required. These climatological datasets are compiled from the observation networks from countries and additional data from regional observations networks. As some countries do not share all of their datasets, the spatial and temporal coverage of the European dataset, and consequently the accuracy of past trends, varies across Europe.

However, even where sufficient data are available, several problems can limit their use for analysis. These problems are mainly connected with 1) limitations of distributing data in high spatial and temporal resolution by many countries, 2) unavailability of data in easy-to-use digital format, and lack of data homogeneity.

Methodology references

Data specifications

EEA data references

  • No datasets have been specified here.

External data references

Data sources in latest figures

Uncertainties

Methodology uncertainty

See under "Methodology".


Data sets uncertainty

The risks posed by precipitation-related hazards, such as flooding events (including flash floods) and landslides, are also influenced by non-climatic factors, such as population density, floodplain development and land-use change. Hence, estimates of future changes in such risks need to consider changes in both climatic and non-climatic factors. Estimates of trends in heavy or extreme precipitation are more uncertain than trends in mean precipitation because, by their very nature, extreme precipitation events have a low frequency of occurrence. This leads to greater uncertainties when assessing the statistical significance of observed changes.


Rationale uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified

Further work

Short term work

Work specified here requires to be completed within 1 year from now.

Long term work

Work specified here will require more than 1 year (from now) to be completed.

General metadata

Responsibility and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Blaz Kurnik

Ownership

European Environment Agency (EEA)

Identification

Indicator code
CLIM 004
Specification
Version id: 1

Frequency of updates

Updates are scheduled every 4 years

Classification

DPSIR: Impact
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)

Related content

Data references used

Latest figures and vizualizations

Relevant policy documents

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