Extreme precipitation events vary with different sub-regions, sites and years and show complex characteristics. In this study, the temporal variations, trends with significance and change points in the annual time series of 10 extreme precipitation indices (EPIs) at 552 sites and in seven sub-regions were analyzed using the modified Mann–Kendall test and sequential Mann–Kendall analysis. Three representative (extremely wet, normal and extremely dry) years from 1961 to 2017 were selected by the largest, 50%, and smallest empirical frequency values in China. The spatiotemporal changes in the EPIs during the three representative years were analyzed in detail. The results showed that during 1961–2017, both the consecutive wet or dry days decreased significantly, while the number of heavy precipitation days had no significant trend, and the other seven wet EPIs increased insignificantly. The abrupt change years of the 10 EPIs occurred 32 and 40 times from 1963 to 1978 and from 1990 to 2016, respectively, regardless of sub-region. The extremely dry (or wet) events mainly occurred in western (or southwestern) China, implying a higher extreme event risk. The extremely wet, normal and extremely dry events from 1961 to 2017 occurred in 2016, 1997 and 2011 with empirical frequencies of 1.7%, 50% and 98.3%, respectively. In addition, 1998 was the second-most extremely wet year (empirical frequency was 3.7%). The monthly precipitation values were larger from February to August in 1998, forming a much earlier flood peak than that of 2016. The 10 EPIs had close connections with Normalized Difference Vegetation Indexes during the 12 months of 1998 and 2016. This study provides useful references for disaster prevention in China.

This content is only available as a PDF.

Author notes

Linchao Li and Yufeng Zou contributed equally.

Supplementary data