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Investigating precipitation extremes in South Carolina with focus on the state's October 2015 precipitation event

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The October 2015 precipitation event in the Southeastern United States brought large amounts of rainfall to South Carolina, with particularly heavy amounts in Charleston and Columbia. The subsequent flooding resulted in numerous casualties and hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage. Precipitation levels were so severe that media outlets and government agencies labeled this storm as a 1 in 1000-year event in parts of the state. Two points of discussion emerged as a result of this event. The first was related to understanding the degree to which this event was anomalous; the second was related to understanding whether precipitation extremes in South Carolina have changed over recent time. In this work, 50 years of daily precipitation data at 28 locations are used to fit a spatiotemporal hierarchical model, with the ultimate goal of addressing these two points of discussion. Bayesian inference is used to estimate return levels and to perform a severity-area-frequency analysis, and it is determined that precipitation levels related to this event were atypical throughout much of the state, but were particularly unusual in the Columbia area. This analysis also finds marginal evidence in favor of the claim that precipitation extremes in the Carolinas have become more intense over the last 50 years.
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Keywords: Bayesian hierarchical modeling; Generalized extreme value distribution; precipitation return levels; severity-area-frequency analysis; spatiotemporal extremes

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Mathematical Sciences, Clemson University, Clemson, SC, USA

Publication date: January 25, 2019

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