Many studies have observed changes in the frequency and intensity of precipitation extremes and floods during the last decade(s). Natural variability by climate oscillations partly determines the observed evolution of precipitation extremes. Based on a technique for the identification and analysis of changes in extremes, this paper shows that precipitation extremes have oscillatory behaviour at multidecadal time scales.
The analysis is based on a unique dataset of 108 years of 10-minute precipitation intensities at Uccle (Brussels), not affected by instrumental changes. We also checked the consistency of the findings with long precipitation records at 724 stations across Europe and the Middle East. The past 100 years show for northwestern Europe, both in winter and summer, larger and more precipitation extremes around the 1910s, 1950-1960s, and more recently during the 1990s. The oscillations for southwestern Europe are anti-correlated with these of northwestern Europe, thus with oscillation highs in the 1930-1940s and 1970s. The precipitation oscillation peaks are explained by persistence in atmospheric circulation patterns over the North Atlantic for periods of 10 to 15 years.