EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

The effect of human influence on wet and dry European summers

Nikolaos Christidis and Peter Stott
Nikolaos Christidis and Peter Stott
  • Met Office, Hadley Centre, Exeter, United Kingdom of Great Britain – England, Scotland, Wales (

As the climate becomes warmer under the influence of anthropogenic forcings, increases in the concentration of the atmospheric water vapour may lead to an intensification of wet and dry extremes. Understanding regional hydroclimatic changes can provide actionable information to help communities adapt to impacts specific to their location. This study employs an ensemble of 9 CMIP6 models and compares experiments with and without the effect of human influence using detection and attribution methodologies. The analysis employs two popular drought indices: the rainfall-based standardised precipitation index (SPI), and its extension, the standardized precipitation evapotranspiration index (SPEI), which also accounts for changes in potential evapotranspiration. Both indices are defined relative to the pre-industrial climate, which enables a comparison between past, present and future climatic conditions. Potential evapotranspiration is computed with the simple, temperature-based, Thornthwaite formula. The latter has been criticised for omitting the influences of radiation, humidity and wind, but has been shown to yield very similar trends, spatial averages and correlations with more sophisticated models. It is therefore deemed to be adequate in studies assessing the broader overall effect of climate change, which are more concerned with wet and dry trends and changes in characteristics of extremes rather than the precise estimation of drought index values. The rainfall-based index suggests a shift towards wetter conditions in the north and dryer in the south of the continent, as well as an overall increase in variability. Nevertheless, when the temperature effect is included, the wet trends in the north are largely masked leading to increasingly drier summers across most of the continent. A formal statistical methodology indicates that the fingerprint of forced climate change has emerged above variability and is thus detectable in the observational trends of both indices. A broadening of the SPI distribution also suggests higher rainfall variability in a warmer climate. The study demonstrates a striking drying trend in the Mediterranean region, suggesting that what were extremely dry conditions there in the pre-industrial climate may become normal by the end of the century.

How to cite: Christidis, N. and Stott, P.: The effect of human influence on wet and dry European summers, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-3110,, 2021.


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