Pardeep Pall, Christina M. Patricola, Michael F. Wehner, Dáithí A. Stone, Christopher J. Paciorek, William D. Collins

Weather and Climate Extremes

Published date July 18, 2017

Diagnosing conditional anthropogenic contributions to heavy Colorado rainfall in September 2013

  • States that the Colorado floods of September 2013 caused severe damage and fatalities, and resulted from prolonged heavy rainfall unusual for that time of year
  • Investigates the possible role of anthropogenic climate change in this extreme event
  • Employs a part dynamical modeling-, part observational-based event attribution approach, which simulates regional Colorado rainfall conditional on boundary conditions prescribed from the observed synoptic-scale meteorology in September 2013 – and assumes these conditions would have been similar in the absence of anthropogenic forcing
  • Regional climate model simulations indicate that anthropogenic drivers increased the magnitude of heavy northeast Colorado rainfall for the wet week in September 2013 by 30%, with the occurrence probability of a week at least that wet increasing by at least a factor of 1.3
  • Finds that this increase resulted in part from the additional moisture-carrying capacity of a warmer atmosphere – allowing more intense local convective rainfall that induced a dynamical positive feedback in the existing larger scale moisture flow – and also in part from additional moisture transport associated with larger scale circulation change