Articles | Volume 11, issue 8
Research article
19 Aug 2011
Research article |  | 19 Aug 2011

Non-stationarity in daily and sub-daily intense rainfall – Part 2: Regional assessment for sites in south-east Australia

D. Jakob, D. J. Karoly, and A. Seed

Abstract. Using data for a common period (1976–2005) for a set of 31 sites located in south-east Australia, variations in frequency and magnitude of intense rainfall events across durations from 6 min to 72 h were assessed. This study was driven by a need to clarify how variations in climate might affect intense rainfall and the potential for flooding. Sub-daily durations are of particular interest for urban applications. Worldwide, few such observation-based studies exist, which is mainly due to limitations in data.

Analysis of seasonality in frequency and magnitude of events revealed considerable variation across the set of sites, implying different dominating rainfall-producing mechanisms and/or interactions with local topography. Both these factors are relevant when assessing the potential effects of climate variations on intense rainfall events. The set of sites was therefore split into groups ("north cluster" and "south cluster") according to the characteristics of intense rainfall events. There is a strong polarisation in the nature of changes found for the north cluster and south cluster. While sites in the north cluster typically exhibit decrease in frequency of events, particularly in autumn and at durations of 1 h and longer; sites in the south cluster experience an increase in frequency of events, particularly for summer and sub-hourly durations.

Non-stationarity found in historical records has the potential to significantly affect design rainfall estimates. An assessment of quantile estimates derived using a standard regionalisation technique and periods representative of record lengths available for practical applications show that such estimates may not be representative of long-term conditions, so alternative approaches need to be considered, particularly where short records are concerned. Additional rainfall information, in particular radar data, could be used for an in-depth spatial analysis of intense rainfall events.