Regional perspective on mechanisms for tropical precipitation frequency and intensity under global warming

Chao An Chen, Chia Chou*, Cheng Ta Chen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


From a global point of view, a shift toward more intense precipitation is often found in observations and global warming simulations. However, similar to changes in mean precipitation, these changes associated with precipitation characters, such as intensity and frequency, should vary with space. Based on the classification of the subregions for the tropics in Chou et al., changes in precipitation frequency and intensity and their association with changes in mean precipitation are analyzed on a regional basis in 10 coupled global climate models. Furthermore, mechanisms for these changes are also examined, via the thermodynamic and dynamic contributions. In general, the increase (decrease) of mean precipitation is mainly attributed to increases (decreases) in the frequency and intensity of almost all strengths of precipitation: that is, light to heavy precipitation. The thermodynamic contribution, which is associated with increased water vapor, is positive to both precipitation frequency and intensity, particularly for precipitation extremes, and varies littlewith space. On the other hand, the dynamic contribution, which is related to changes in the tropical circulation, is themain process for inducing the spatial variation of changes in precipitation frequency and intensity. Among mechanisms that induce the dynamic contribution, the rich-get-richer mechanism (the dynamic part), ocean feedback, and warm horizontal advection increase precipitation frequency and intensity, while the upped-ante mechanism, the deepening of convection,longwave radiation cooling, and cold horizontal advection tend to reduce precipitation frequency and intensity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8487-8501
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Dec


  • Atmospheric circulation
  • Climate change
  • Hydrologic cycle
  • Precipitation
  • Thermodynamics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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