In this paper, precipitation data from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), together with atmospheric reanalysis data, are employed to identify warm-season precipitation (1998–2014) changes and their association with rapid urbanization in south China. Three urban clusters (Chenyu, Yangtze Delta, and Fujian Guangdong coast) are focused. The results reveal that, for the inland Chengyu urban cluster, a lack of precipitation trend is likely due to insignificant trends in convective available potential energy (CAPE) and total column water vapor (TCWV). They are likely resulted from a reduced local moisture recycling in urban areas, balanced by an increased evapotranspiration of rural areas, together with a stable advection of water vapor input. For the Yangtze River Delta urban cluster, a negative trend in precipitation is associated with a slightly decreased CAPE and an increased TCWV, but is very likely related to urbanization induced an increased planetary boundary layer (PBL) and reduced land surface evaporation. For the Fujian Guangdong coast urban cluster, a marked positive precipitation trend is well explained by positive trends in CAPE and TCWV. The increased precipitation likely benefits from enhanced moisture recycling due to improved vegetation cover in rural areas, and enhanced advection moisture inputs due to urbanization along the coast. These results suggest urbanization effects on precipitation vary with regional conditions. In the coastal area, urbanization enhances sea breezes, which may benefit precipitation if sea breezes go along with the prevailing moisture. In inland area, urbanization likely leads to a warmer-dryer climate if large-scale land cover keeps stationary.
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