Long-term oscillations in rainfall extremes in a 268 year daily time series
© 2014. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved. We analyze long-term fluctuations of rainfall extremes in 268 years of daily observations (Padova, Italy, 1725-2006), to our knowledge, the longest existing instrumental time series of its kind. We identify multidecadal oscillations in extremes estimated by fitting the GEV distribution, with approximate periodicities of about 17-21, 30-38, 49-68, 85-94, and 145-172 years. The amplitudes of these oscillations exceed the changes associated with the observed trend in intensity. This finding implies that even if climatic trends are absent or negligible, rainfall and its extremes exhibit an apparent nonstationarity if analyzed over time intervals shorter than the longest periodicity in the data (about 170 years for the case analyzed here). These results suggest that because long-term periodicities may likely be present elsewhere, in the absence of observational time series with length comparable to such periodicities (possibly exceeding one century), past observations cannot be considered to be representative of future extremes. We also find that observed fluctuations in extreme events in Padova are linked to the North Atlantic Oscillation: increases in the NAO Index are on average associated with an intensification of daily extreme rainfall events. This link with the NAO global pattern is highly suggestive of implications of general relevance: long-term fluctuations in rainfall extremes connected with large-scale oscillating atmospheric patterns are likely to be widely present and undermine the very basic idea of using a single stationary distribution to infer future extremes from past observations.
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