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ISSN : 1225-6692(Print)
ISSN : 2287-4518(Online)
Journal of the Korean earth science society Vol.39 No.4 pp.327-341

Future Extreme Temperature and Precipitation Mechanisms over the Korean Peninsula Using a Regional Climate Model Simulation

Hyomee Lee, Byung-Kwon Moon*, Jieun Wie
Division of Science Education & Institute of Fusion Science, Chonbuk National University, Jeonju 54896, Korea
Corresponding author: Tel: +82-63-270-2824 Fax: +82-63-270-2802
July 31, 2018 August 18, 2018 August 21, 2018


Extreme temperatures and precipitations are expected to be more frequently occurring due to the ongoing global warming over the Korean Peninsula. However, few studies have analyzed the synoptic weather patterns associated with extreme events in a warming world. Here, the atmospheric patterns related to future extreme events are first analyzed using the HadGEM3-RA regional climate model. Simulations showed that the variability of temperature and precipitation will increase in the future (2051-2100) compared to the present (1981-2005), accompanying the more frequent occurrence of extreme events. Warm advection from East China and lower latitudes, a stagnant anticyclone, and local foehn wind are responsible for the extreme temperature (daily T>38°C) episodes in Korea. The extreme precipitation cases (<500 mm day−1) were mainly caused by mid-latitude cyclones approaching the Korean Peninsula, along with the enhanced Changma front by supplying water vapor into the East China Sea. These future synoptic-scale features are similar to those of present extreme events. Therefore, our results suggest that, in order to accurately understand future extreme events, we should consider not only the effects of anthropogenic greenhouse gases or aerosol increases, but also small-scale topographic conditions and the internal variations of climate systems.



    Anomalous weather conditions owing to global warming have been observed over the past several decades in the Korean Peninsula. From 1996-2005, mean temperature and precipitation in Korea increased by 0.6 °C, a 10% rise over averages from 1971-2000 (IPCC, 2007). These trends are expected to continue in the future, and the frequency and intensity of extreme events are also expected to increase (IPCC, 2014; Meehl et al., 2000).

    Above average mean summer temperatures have been observed continuously since 2014, and severe rainfall and flooding events are occurring more frequently. In 2016, a summer heat wave led to 17 deaths and more than twice as many heat-related incidents as normal (KMA, 2017). In Cheongju on July 16, 2017, 290.2 mm of precipitation fell on one day, more than 20% of the average annual precipitation of 1239.1 mm. Roads were flooded and vehicles inundated with water, causing 6 fatalities and injuring 445 people. A record-breaking heat wave hit Japan in July 2018, resulting in the highest temperature ever recorded in Kumagaya (41.1 °C), which was responsible for more than 40 fatalities (Ogura et al., 2018). These occurrences indicate that we are experiencing extreme events of unprecedented intensity owing to global warming, with devastating consequences for society.

    Most studies have focused on changes and variability of extremes in the Korean Peninsula, showing that warm extremes have increased with global warming (Min et al., 2015). Although Arctic sea-ice melting tends to increase the occurrence of cold surge in the East Asia, Lee et al. (2012) predicted that heat-related phenomena will increase and cold-related phenomena will decrease by the end of the 21 st century. Similar results have indicated that the mean and frequency of extreme events will increase in a warming world (Lee et al., 2012; Sung et al., 2012; Kim et al., 2016).

    To reduce uncertainty in predictions of future climate extremes, it is essential to understand the mechanisms of extreme events, to help minimize their damage to society and the environment. However, as evidenced by the literature, most studies only predicted more frequent occurrences of extreme heat and precipitation in Korea without examining the mechanisms underlying these events. Here, we analyzed the atmospheric patterns associated with the future extreme events from one week before the events. Unlike the previous studies that mostly focused on the influence of greenhouse warming, this study identifies the role of synoptic-scale atmospheric conditions on the development of extreme events. The paper is organized as follows. The methods and analyzed model data are described in Section 2. Section 3 describes the atmospheric conditions during heat wave and heavy rainfall events. Finally, Section 4 summarizes our conclusions.

    Model Data and Methods

    HadGEM3-RA regional model data

    To understand the mechanisms of future extreme events over the Korean Peninsula, HadGEM3-RA regional climate model (RCM) data from the CORDEX-East Asia (COordinated Regional climate Downscaling EXperiment in East Asia; http://cordexea. was used, utilizing boundary conditions from the global climate model (i.e., dynamical downscaling). HadGEM3-RA has been shown to effectively capture the observed mean and interannual variations of extreme events, such as temperatures and precipitations in East Asia, including the Korean Peninsula (Oh et al., 2016; Suh et al., 2016; Sung et al., 2012).

    The HadGEM3-RA model has a horizontal resolution of 0.44 o (approximately 50 km), including East Asia and Northwest Pacific (Fig. 1), with higher horizontal resolutions of 0.11 ° (approximately 12.5 km) for the Korean Peninsula (CORDEX-East Asia, 2012). A detailed description of the simulation conditions is given in Table 1.

    This paper analyzes the results of three long-term runs, including a historical experiment for 56 years (1950-2005), and experiments for Representative Concentration Pathways (RCP) 4.5 and 8.5, which are global warming scenarios for 95 years (2006-2100).

    Criteria for extreme temperature and precipitation

    In this paper, “future” refers to a 50-year period from 2051 to 2100, and “present” refers to a 25-year period from 1981 to 2005. While some studies used the predefined extreme indices (e.g., Choi et al., 2008) and/or quantile regression method (e.g., Kim et al., 2014), here an extreme temperature and precipitation day in the future was defined as a day with an annual maximum 2 m temperature (T2m) larger than 38 °C and with annual maximum precipitation more than 500 mm day−1 , respectively. These criteria chosen for each variable are those that identify two extreme cases for each variable. The analysis in this study focused on four cases of extreme temperature and precipitation, summarized in Table 2. Here, an extreme temperature case is indicated as TEMP and an extreme precipitation case as PRCP, and each case was distinguished by adding 1 and 2 starting from the case that occurred first. Since extreme events share similar overall processes, one case of extreme temperature and precipitation each (i.e., TEMP1 and PRCP1) was analyzed in detail. The atmospheric conditions during the extreme events were analyzed using daily mean data for 850 hPa winds, temperature, specific humidity, and sea-level pressure.


    Changes in trends of extreme temperature and precipitation

    Figure 2a shows the time series of annual maximum T2m simulated by HadGEM3-RA. The historical experiment does not show a clear tendency, but in the RCP scenarios, the mean temperature of approximately 30.5 °C in 2006 increase sharply to approximately 34.5 °C (RCP4.5) and 36 °C (RCP8.5) at the end of the 21 st century. The rates of increase in extreme temperatures in these two scenarios are similar before 2040, but the rates of extreme temperature events increase significantly in RCP8.5 from the mid-21 st century onward, likely owing to the carbon dioxide reduction policies in RCP4.5. In general, the amplitude of annual maximum T2m increases gradually in the future, showing large variability, which indicates that extreme temperatures will occur more frequently in a warmer global environment.

    This prediction can be reconfirmed in the histogram of temperatures (Fig. 2b). The width of the histogram increases and appears biased toward higher T2m in the future compared to the present. The mean values of the RCP scenarios (32.04 and 33.01 °C, respectively) also increase by 2 °C compared to the historical values (29.51 °C). Moreover, the extreme temperatures of the present climate (historical) show a distribution of approximately 26-32 °C, but the width of histogram increases as it approaches RCPs 4.5 and 8.5. The extreme temperatures under RCPs 4.5 and 8.5 show a range of 29-36 and 28-39 °C, respectively. Table 3 shows these results in detail. These results indicate that extreme events will occur more frequently and intensively in the future (e.g., Sung et al., 2012).

    The precipitation changes due to global warming are shown in Fig. 3. Similar to the results for temperature for the historical experiment did not show distinct long-term trends in precipitation, but for both RCPs, precipitation in the late 21 st century greatly increased (~260mmday−1 in 2006 versus 300mmday−1 of RCP4.5 and 360 mmday−1 of RCP8.5). Furthermore, the precipitation under RCP4.5 shows a slightly decreasing trend in the mid-21 st century, likely owing to the effect of carbon dioxide reduction policies (Fig. 3a). A histogram analysis shows the future large variability in precipitation due to global warming (Fig. 3b). For example, extreme precipitation in the present experiment spans a range of 400 mm day−1 . In contrast, precipitation under RCP4.5 is distributed over a range of 530 mm day−1 , compared to a range of approximately 410 mm day−1 for RCP8.5. Interestingly, RCP4.5 shows the higher standard deviation of the precipitation than RCP8.5. A detailed investigation of this difference is beyond the scope of this work. The standard deviation was also higher for future precipitation (81.63 mm day−1 in the historical run, but 105.1 and 95.51 mm day−1 in the RCP4.5 and 8.5 experiments, respectively (Table 4). Thus, as with temperature, it is expected that the variability of precipitation and the possibility of extreme precipitation events will increase in the future.

    Examination of mechanisms for simulated extreme temperature and precipitation events

    To understand the mechanisms of extreme temperature and precipitation, the atmospheric conditions for six days prior to the four extreme event days were analyzed. In the TEMP1 case, the annual maximum T2m was 38.57 °C in Okcheon (36 o 19'60"N, 127 o 40'0" E) on August 12, 2084. Note that Okcheon is the nearest city to the model grid point where the extreme value is simulated, and this is also applied to other cities studies here. Figure 4 shows the temperature distribution at intervals of from six to two days prior based on RCP8.5. At six days prior (D-6), a warm region with temperatures above 38 °C appeared in East China and the Yeongdong region (Fig. 4a). This hightemperature region expanded from East China to Bohai Bay and then to the Korean Peninsula, eventually increasing the temperature of the Korean Peninsula (Fig. 4b-c). After that, an extreme temperature event above 38 °C occurred in the central region in Korea (Fig. 4d). This shows that warm advection plays a key role in the occurrence of extreme temperature. To examine this in detail, the 850 hPa wind and temperature are shown in Fig. 5. Similar to the T2m, a warm region above 26 °C appeared in China and the Korean Peninsula at six days prior (Fig. 5a), and the air of this warm region was moved to the Korean Peninsula by anticyclonic winds (Fig. 5b-c). Then, the Korean Peninsula was placed under the influence of an anticyclone, and a heat wave occurred (Fig. 5d). The development of the warm region in China was attributed to the southeasterly flow, with warm and humid air associated with a typhoon in the South China Sea.

    Heat waves caused by the inflow of hot air have been observed in recent abnormal high temperature cases. In particular, similar to the TEMP1 case, the inflow of hot air from China led to the summer 2016 heat wave (KMA, 2017). Likewise, the warm southerly flow associated with an anticyclone that developed in the Philippine Sea was also known to be associated with the heat waves in Korea (KMA, 2018). This implies that in order to understand the changes of extreme events in the future, it is necessary to anticipate the detailed atmospheric changes around the Korean Peninsula. Thus, we need to also consider the future changes of El Niño and monsoons, which are closely related to climate variations in the East Asia.

    In addition to the large-scale circulation, the local topographical effects on extreme temperatures cannot be ignored. For example, the easterlies at D-2 could have caused a foehn and contributed to the downslope adiabatic warming in the central region (Fig. 5c). This is supported by the fact that the heat wave appeared predominantly in the central region of the Korean Peninsula, (i.e., west of the Taebaek Mountains; Fig. 4c). A foehn phenomenon owing to easterlies has been pointed out as a factor intensifying heat waves (KMA, 2016). Figure 6 shows that the Korean Peninsula is under the influence of the Western North Pacific High. The Western North Pacific High will increase the stability of atmosphere and decrease the amount of cloud cover, thus heating the near-surface air by insolation. Heat waves in the Korean Peninsula are affected by the northwestward expansion of the Western North Pacific High, along with the intensification of stagnant anticyclones (Kim et al., 2008; KMA, 2018).

    TEMP2 is a case of annual maximum T2m of 39.57 °C that occurred in Geoje (34 ° 51'1"N, 128 ° 35'19" E) on August 3, 2091 based on RCP8.5. This case showed similar atmospheric patterns to those in TEMP1. The warm temperature appeared in both East China at D-6. The temperature in Korea dramatically increased as this warm region gradually advected toward the Korean Peninsula by westerlies associated with the anticyclonic winds. Furthermore, the temperature increased as an anticyclone stayed above the Korean Peninsula. At D-6, the Western North Pacific High also gradually expands to the west. Finally, at D+0, a high temperature region above 38 °C appeared in Korea.

    In both cases of extreme precipitation, heavy rainfall events occurred in the central region. In PRCP1, an annual maximum precipitation of 535 mm day−1 appeared in Namyangju (37 ° 38'12"N, 127 ° 12'51"E) on July 18, 2054, in RCP8.5. Figure 7 shows the precipitation distribution at this time and the two rain bands, which were located to the south and north of the Korean Peninsula, respectively, gradually approaching the Korean Peninsula. Eventually, these two rain bands merged and covered China, Korea, and Japan, and an extreme precipitation event occurred in the central region of the Korean Peninsula (Fig. 7d).

    An examination of the 850 hPa wind and the specific humidity for this case (Fig. 8) indicates that the precipitation zone to the northwest of the Korean Peninsula appears together with counterclockwise flows associated with a mid-latitude cyclone. When this cyclone approaches the Korean Peninsula, a heavy rainfall event occurs in the central region as the Changma front becomes activated and moves north (Fig. 8c-d). In this case, the water vapor supplied through the southwesterly winds fueled an intense Changma front. Figure 9 clearly shows that a midlatitude cyclone approaches the Korean Peninsula. Moreover, the Korean Peninsula is located on the edge of the Western North Pacific High, which provides the continuous warm and humid air. Several studies have shown that when a heavy rainfall event occurs in the Korean Peninsula, the subtropical warm and humid air is supplied to the Korean Peninsula through the strong southwesterly jets on the boundary of the expanded Western North Pacific High (Heo et al., 1997; Lee and Kim, 2007; Park and Lee, 2008; Yun et al., 2001; Yun et al., 2008). PRCP1 is a typical case of heavy rainfall in the Korean Peninsula (KMA, 2011). Therefore, as with the extreme temperature case mentioned above, the mechanisms of extreme precipitation in the future warming environments are expected to be similar to the current heavy rainfall mechanisms (e.g., So and Lee, 1998; Kim et al., 2012). Thus, it is necessary to understand the various factors affecting the intensity or moving path of midlatitude cyclones, the location of the Changma front, and the change of the Western North Pacific High due to global warming.

    The PRCP2 case showed an annual maximum daily precipitation of 559 mm day−1 in Wonju (37 ° 21'5"N, 127 ° 56'43"E) on August 7, 2082, based on RCP4.5. This case coincides with PRCP1 in the process of forming a zonal rain band that elongated across China, the Korean Peninsula, and Japan, as a mid-latitude cyclone approaches the Korean Peninsula, resulting in a heavy rainfall around the central region. The only difference from PRCP1 is that it occurs after the end of Changma. Due to recent changes in precipitation characteristics, there is an increasing tendency of precipitation in August after Changma (Ko et al., 2005). Therefore, how the frequency of heavy rainfalls unrelated to Changma will appear in the future is a subject that needs further investigation.

    Discussion and Conclusions

    As global warming continues, extreme events are expected to become more frequent over the Korean Peninsula. This study investigated future atmospheric patterns of extreme temperature and precipitation events using simulations from the HadGEM3-RA regional climate model. Then, the mechanisms of four extreme weather events identified in the 21 st century were examined to help understand these mechanisms in order to better predict extreme events that are expected to increase in frequency and intensity in the future.

    Results showed that the annual maximum temperature in the future (2051-2100) will increase by 2 °C or more compared with present temperatures (1981- 2005), and variability will also increase. This increase was more prominent in RCP8.5 than in RCP4.5. Therefore, it is expected that extreme temperature events will occur more frequently in the Korean Peninsula due to global warming. Our results are similar to those from other studies that found evidence for globally increasing extreme temperatures (Clark et al., 2006; Gu et al., 2012; IPCC, 2014; Meehl et al., 2000; Suh et al., 2016) and precipitation (Oh et al., 2014; Oh et al., 2016; Sung et al., 2012) over the Korean Peninsula due to climate change.

    Four cases of extreme temperature (>38 °C) and extreme precipitation (>500 mm day−1 ) were analyzed. Six days before these extreme temperature events, a warm air mass from East China expanded to the Korean Peninsula through warm advection, at the same time subtropical warm air was being supplied to East China and the Korean Peninsula, raising regional temperatures. In the TEMP1 case, it was found that the air flows associated with a typhoon enhanced the warm advection. The stagnant high-pressure system above the Korean Peninsula suppressed the development of clouds and intensified solar heating, which increased the temperature, and this was further intensified by local foehn phenomenon. These mechanisms are similar to those of the present heat waves.

    Heavy rainfall appeared in the central region of Korea during the extreme precipitation cases. As a mid-latitude cyclone gradually approached the Korean Peninsula, precipitation began to increase. The extreme precipitation tends to occur with a zonal rain band across the Korean Peninsula. In the PRCP1 case, the activated Changma front also contributed the heavy rainfall event. Overall, the extreme precipitation events showed common features, such as precipitation by a mid-latitude cyclone, continuous supply of water vapor by strong southwesterly winds, and presence of the Western North Pacific High over the Korean Peninsula. The extreme precipitation case also showed similar mechanisms to those of the current heavy rainfalls.

    These results suggest that in order to understand extreme weather events in the future, we should consider various factors affecting the East Asian climate, such as monsoons, the Western North Pacific High, El Niño, and sea surface temperatures. Thus, it is short-sighted to simply predict that extreme temperature and precipitation events will increase. There is a possibility that the atmospheric variations due to global warming (e.g., El Niño) will act to offset the increase of heat waves and precipitations in the Korean Peninsula. In the future, we should predict extreme weather events considering these factors. To that end, it is necessary to study the issues using an Earth system model that includes the interactions of all components of the earth system.


    This work was funded by the Korea Meteorological Administration Research and Development Program under Grant KMI (KMI2018-03513).



    Map of CORDEX-East Asia area. Rectangular box indicates the Korean area used in this study (124°E-130°E, 33°N- 40°N).


    (a) The time series (thin line) and their moving mean (thick line), and (b) histogram and 95 th percentile (green dashed line) of annual extreme values of daily mean temperature (°C) from the Historical (black), RCP4.5 (blue), and RCP8.5 (red) in Korea.


    Same as Fig. 2, but for precipitation (mm day−1 ).


    T2m (°C) of TEMP1 for the period of 6 days ago (D-6) to the day (D+0) at intervals of 2 days.


    Same as Fig. 4, but for 850 hPa wind (m s−1 ) and temperature (°C).


    Same as Fig. 4, but for sea level pressure (hPa).


    Precipitation (mm day−1 ) of PRCP1 for the period of 6 days ago (D-6) to the day (D+0) at intervals of 2 days.


    Same as Fig. 7, but for 850 hPa wind (m s−1 ) and specific humidity (g kg−1 ).


    Same as Fig. 7, but for sea level pressure (hPa).


    Simulation conditions of HadGEM3-RA

    Criteria for extreme temperature and precipitation days

    Annual extreme values of daily mean T2m ( °C) in Korea (1950-2100) from the historical, RCP4.5, and RCP8.5 experiments

    Annual extreme values of daily precipitation (mm day−1 ) in Korea (1950-2100) from the historical, RCP4.5, and RCP8.5 experiments


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