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Front. Earth Sci., 13 December 2023
Sec. Atmospheric Science
Volume 11 - 2023 |

Editorial: Extreme precipitation in arid regions: observation, mechanisms, and simulations

  • 1Key Laboratory of Climate Resource Development and Disaster Prevention of Gansu Province, Research and Development Center of Earth System Model, College of Atmospheric Sciences, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou, China
  • 2State Key Laboratory of Earth Surface Processes and Resource Ecology (ESPRE), Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China
  • 3Industrial Ecology Programme, Department of Energy and Process Engineering, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Trondheim, Norway

Arid regions, covering 41% of Earth’s land area, experience insufficient vapor leading to deficient rainfall. These ecologically fragile regions are highly sensitive to climate change (Barriopedro et al., 2012; Wang et al., 2021; Yang et al., 2023). Despite their aridity, extreme precipitation events (EPEs) are observed in these regions. The increasing frequency of EPEs in arid regions due to global warming introduces challenges and uncertainties for ecosystems, environment, and sustainable development. This prompts essential researches about the characteristics and changing trends of EPEs, the sources of water vapor, the physical mechanisms of EPEs, and the relationship between the EPEs in arid regions and ocean/land signals (e.g., ENSO, soil moisture).

The performance of numerical models in simulating EPEs in arid regions remains a challenge. Previous study has revealed inconsistent simulations of EPE with different cumulus parameterizations (Zhaoye et al., 2022), indicating substantial uncertainties in performances of numerical models across diverse spatial and temporal scales in arid regions. Aggravated by sparse observations and unclear physics parameterizations in arid regions, necessitating an urgent need for improving simulations and better understanding of EPEs.

This Research Topic serves as a platform for researchers to share the latest findings on extreme precipitation in arid regions. The Research Topic includes eight original research papers of high quality, contributed by 42 authors. These contributions are broadly classified into three categories: changes in EPEs and associated processes, exploration of physical processes and mechanisms driving EPEs, evaluations and improvements of parameterizations in EPEs simulations.

Three papers focused on changes in extreme precipitation and related processes in arid regions. Yang et al. used long-term meteorological observations to scrutinize historical precipitation variations and explored future projections based on dynamic downscaled simulations, revealing intense precipitation occurrences over the southeastern and northern NWC, and projecting substantial reductions in future precipitation across the southern and eastern NWC. Silva et al. conducted a comprehensive analysis of extreme precipitation indices, indicating a decrease in the rainfall regime and an increase in dry days, especially during the annual time scale and the rainy season. Additionally, Jiang et al. employed two extreme wind indices (i.e., EW90 and EW95) to examine the relationship between extreme-wind intensity and local-source sandstorm occurrences, showing a significant decreasing trend in extreme-wind speeds and annual frequencies, which contributes to the significant reduction of sandstorms over northern China.

There are two papers concerning the physical processes and mechanisms behind EPEs. Wu S. et al. assessed the coupled effects of soil temperature and moisture on extreme precipitation in NWC, highlighting the role of snow conversions in intensifying rainfall and influencing other cloud processes. Meanwhile, Zhang et al. investigated the impacts of roughness length (Z0h) schemes on simulation of land-atmosphere interaction and proposed the optimal Z0h schemes in accurately simulating water and heat exchanges.

Three papers focused on simulations and parameterizations of extreme precipitation. Wu D. et al. addressed the depicting cloud microphysical processes by assessing their impact on mesoscale convective systems, highlighting the substantial influence of graupel characteristics on convective initiation times, system morphology, and the intensity of related weather phenomena, such as wind gusts and cold pools. Meng et al. focused on refining soil moisture simulation in arid and semiarid regions. Their enhancements in an integrated urban land model notably improved soil moisture simulation, emphasizing the importance of accounting for soil water vapor transport in accurate modelling for these regions. Similarly, Xu et al. simulated extreme rainfall in northwest China’s arid area, emphasizing the impact of snow conversions on rainfall production and other cloud processes.

While studies in this Research Topic present intriguing findings, several unresolved issues related to EPEs in arid regions persist. Key questions include understanding the mechanisms of water vapor transportation over long distances from ocean to arid regions, exploring the modulation of arid regions adjacent to the ocean by air-sea interactions, and investigating the influence of monsoons on precipitation patterns in arid areas. These questions underscore the need for further researches to deepen our understanding of the complex mechanism behind EPEs in arid regions.

Author contributions

CW: Conceptualization, Funding acquisition, Investigation, Supervision, Writing–review and editing. KY: Funding acquisition, Investigation, Writing–original draft. ZW: Investigation, Writing–review and editing. BH: Investigation, Writing–review and editing.


The authors declare financial support was received for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article. This study was supported by the National Key R&D Program of China (2020YFA0608404), Major Science and Technology Project of Gansu Province (20ZD7FA005).


We sincerely appreciate the Editorial Board and Editorial Office of the Frontiers in Earth Science for the kind invitation to edit this Research Topic and their timely support in organizing and managing the selected Research Topic.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

The authors declared that they were an editorial board member of Frontiers, at the time of submission. This had no impact on the peer review process and the final decision.

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Barriopedro, D., Gouveia, C. M., Trigo, R. M., and Wang, L. (2012). The 2009/10 drought in China: possible causes and impacts on vegetation. J. Hydrometeorol. 13, 1251–1267. doi:10.1175/jhm-d-11-074.1

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Yang, J., Yang, K., and Wang, C. (2023). How desertification in northern China will change under a rapidly warming climate in the near future (2021–2050). Theor. Appl. Climatol. 151, 935–948. doi:10.1007/s00704-022-04315-x

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Zhaoye, P., Yang, K., and Wang, C. (2022). Impacts of cumulus parameterizations on extreme precipitation simulation in semi-arid region: a case study in northwest China. Atmos 13, 1464. doi:10.3390/atmos13091464

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Keywords: extreme precipitation, arid regions, changes, physical processes, mechanisms, parameterizations

Citation: Wang C, Yang K, Wei Z and Huang B (2023) Editorial: Extreme precipitation in arid regions: observation, mechanisms, and simulations. Front. Earth Sci. 11:1338841. doi: 10.3389/feart.2023.1338841

Received: 15 November 2023; Accepted: 04 December 2023;
Published: 13 December 2023.

Edited and reviewed by:

Yuqing Wang, University of Hawaii at Manoa, United States

Copyright © 2023 Wang, Yang, Wei and Huang. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Chenghai Wang,