Global Weirding? – Using Very Large Ensembles and Extreme Value Theory to assess Changes in Extreme Weather Events Today

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Friederike Elly Luise Otto1, Daniel Mitchell1, Sebastian Sippel2, Mitchell Black3, Andrea Jennifer Dittus4, Luke James Harrington5 and Nur Hanim Mohd Saleh6, (1)University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom, (2)Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Jena, Germany, (3)University of Melbourne, Parkville, Australia, (4)University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC, Australia, (5)Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand, (6)National University of Malaysia, Selangor, Malaysia
A shift in the distribution of socially-relevant climate variables such as daily minimum winter temperatures and daily precipitation extremes, has been attributed to anthropogenic climate change for various mid-latitude regions. However, while there are many process-based arguments suggesting also a change in the shape of these distributions, attribution studies demonstrating this have not currently been undertaken. Here we use a very large initial condition ensemble of ~40,000 members simulating the European winter 2013/2014 using the distributed computing infrastructure under the weather@home project. Two separate scenarios are used:1. current climate conditions, and 2. a counterfactual scenario of “world that might have been” without anthropogenic forcing. Specifically focusing on extreme events, we assess how the estimated parameters of the Generalized Extreme Value (GEV) distribution vary depending on variable-type, sampling frequency (daily, monthly, …) and geographical region. We find that the location parameter changes for most variables but, depending on the region and variables, we also find significant changes in scale and shape parameters. The very large ensemble allows, furthermore, to assess whether such findings in the fitted GEV distributions are consistent with an empirical analysis of the model data, and whether the most extreme data still follow a known underlying distribution that in a small sample size might otherwise be thought of as an out-lier.

The ~40,000 member ensemble is simulated using 12 different SST patterns (1 ‘observed’, and 11 best guesses of SSTs with no anthropogenic warming). The range in SSTs, along with the corresponding changings in the NAO and high-latitude blocking inform on the dynamics governing some of these extreme events. While strong tele-connection patterns are not found in this particular experiment, the high number of simulated extreme events allows for a more thorough analysis of the dynamics than has been performed before.

Therefore, combining extreme value theory with very large ensemble simulations allows us to understand the dynamics of changes in extreme events which is not possible just using the former but also shows in which cases statistics combined with smaller ensembles give as valid results as very large initial conditions.