2007 – Climate change and Probable Maximum Precipitation

Dörte Jakob, Robert Smalley, Jeanette Meighen, Brian Taylor and Karin Xuereb

Probable Maximum Precipitation (PMP) is one of the required inputs for estimating the PMP design flood. In estimating the PMP, currently no allowance is made for long-term climatic trends. A 2-year project funded jointly by the Australian Greenhouse Office and the Queensland Department for Natural Resources and Water, and with in-kind contributions by the Bureau of Meteorology began in May 2006. This study aims to assess how climate change might affect estimates of PMP. Preliminary results from this work will be presented.

Changes in factors used in PMP estimation, such as storm type and depth-duration-area curves, were assessed using a storm database covering the period 1893 to 2001 (Beesley et al. 2004). Based on the last 50 years, there is little evidence to support the notion that tropical cyclones (connected to major rainfall events) are penetrating further south or have become more frequent. A recent event that led to widespread flooding (Gold Coast, June 2005) was found to have very high storm efficiency. Changes in observed and projected moisture availability were assessed on the basis of a high-quality dataset of surface dewpoint temperatures and climate model output.
It is assumed that PMP received by a catchment is not uniformly distributed over a catchment but rather follows a typical spatial pattern. A pilot study to revise design rainfall estimates is currently under way at the Bureau of Meteorology. The methods developed in the pilot study were used to assess whether the spatial distribution of design rainfall estimates might be changing under a changing climate.

Keywords: Probable Maximum Precipitation, climate change, moisture availability, storm efficiency

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