Climate change and the Portuguese precipitation: ENSEMBLES regional climate models results

Soares PMM, Cardoso RM, Ferreira JJ, Miranda PMA
Climate Dynamics, 45-7, 1771-1787,

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In Portugal, the precipitation regimes present one of the highest volumes of extreme precipitation occurrence in Europe, and one of the largest mean precipitation spatial gradient (annual observed values above 2,500 mm in the NW and under 400 mm in the SE). Moreover, southern Europe is one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to climate change. In the ENSEMBLES framework many climate change assessment studies were performed, but none focused on Portuguese precipitation. An extensive evaluation and ranking of the RCMs results addressing the representation of mean precipitation and frequency distributions was performed through the computation of statistical errors and frequency distribution scores. With these results, an ensemble was constructed; giving the same weight to mean precipitation and distribution model skills. This ensemble reveals a good ability to describe the precipitation regime in Portugal, and enables the evaluation of the eventual impact of climate change on Portuguese precipitation according to the A1B scenario. The mean seasonal precipitation is expected to decrease substantially in all seasons, excluding winter. This reduction is statistically significant; it spans from less than 20 % in the north to 40 % in the south in the intermediate seasons, and is above 50 % in the largest portion of mainland in summer. At a basin level the precipitation diminishes in all months for all the basins with exception of December. Total precipitation PDFs reveal an important decrease of the contribution from low to moderate/high precipitation bins, and a striking rise for days with extreme rainfall, up to 30%.