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© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 04 Sep 2018

Research article | 04 Sep 2018

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This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of the manuscript is under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS).

Local and remote moisture sources for extreme precipitation: a study of the two famous 1982 Western Mediterranean episodes

Damián Insua-Costa1, Gonzalo Miguez-Macho1, and María Carmen Llasat2 Damián Insua-Costa et al.
  • 1Non-Linear Physics Group, Universidade de Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain
  • 2Department of Applied Physics, University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain

Abstract. Floods and flash floods are frequent in the South of Europe resulting from heavy rainfall events that often produce more than 200 mm in less than 24 h. Even though the meteorological conditions favorable for these situations have been widely studied, there is a lingering question that still arises: which are the sources of humidity that could explain so much precipitation? To answer this question, the regional atmospheric Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model with a recently implemented moisture tagging capability has been used to analyze the main moisture sources in two famous flood events occurred during the autumn of 1982 (October and November) in the Western Mediterranean area, which is regularly affected by this type of adverse weather episodes. The procedure consists in selecting a priori potential moisture source regions for the considered extreme event, and then performing simulations with the tagging technique to quantify the relative contribution of each selected source to total precipitation. For these events we study the influence of four possible potential sources: 1) evaporation in the Western Mediterranean; 2) evaporation in the Central Mediterranean; 3) evaporation in the North Atlantic; 4) advection from the tropical and subtropical Atlantic and Africa. Results show that these four moisture sources explain most of the accumulated precipitation, with the tropical and subtropical input being the most relevant in both cases. In the October event, evaporation in the Western and Central Mediterranean and in the North Atlantic also had an important contribution. In the November episode, however, tropical and subtropical moisture accounted for more than half of the total accumulated rainfall, while evaporation in the Western Mediterranean and North Atlantic played a secondary role and the contribution of the Central Mediterranean was almost negligible. Remote sources were therefore crucial: in the October event they played a similar role to local sources while in the November case they were clearly dominant. In both episodes, long distance moisture transport from the tropics and subtropics occurred mostly in mid tropospheric layers, through well-defined moisture plumes with maximum mixing ratios at medium levels.

Damián Insua-Costa et al.
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Damián Insua-Costa et al.
Damián Insua-Costa et al.
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Short summary
We study here the main moisture sources in the two famous Western Mediterranean flood events of autumn 1982 (October and November). Results confirm the hypothesis that a large amount of precipitable water was involved, which was to a great extent advected from the tropics and subtropics. This remote moisture transport occurred at medium levels of the atmosphere trough moisture plumes or atmospheric rivers. In the October event the contribution of local sources was also important.
We study here the main moisture sources in the two famous Western Mediterranean flood events of...