Articles | Volume 12, issue 8
Research article
07 Aug 2012
Research article |  | 07 Aug 2012

Recurring features of extreme autumnall rainfall events on the Veneto coastal area

A. Barbi, M. Monai, R. Racca, and A. M. Rossa

Abstract. Recent recurring episodes of heavy flash flood-producing rainfall events on the Veneto coastal area have renewed the interest in documenting the frequency and key dynamical ingredients of such events. A climatological analysis of the precipitation in Veneto reveals that, in comparison with the rest of the region, the coastal area is characterized by fewer rain days, lower rainfall accumulations, yet more days with heavy precipitation. If set in relation to the yearly rainfall, daily accumulation can reach values as high as 40% of the yearly total rainfall, more regularly between 15% and 30%, often in periods of 12 h or less.

Four such heavy rainfall events were analyzed and synthetically described to highlight key ingredients which appear instrumental in producing the high rainfall accumulations. These comprise an upper-level trough elongating or cutting off into the Western Mediterranean basin after a period of one to two weeks of anticyclonic fair weather conditions with temperatures above normal. The moisture supply over the Adriatic onto north-eastern Italy is favoured by above normal sea surface temperatures, enhanced advection by a surface low in the Gulf of Genoa, and in three of the four cases, an additional surface low over southern Italy. The air flows associated with the upper-level trough for the cases discussed were of moderate to weak intensity, and convectively conditionally unstable. The flow intensity was such that the lower tropospheric portion was blocked by and forced to flow around the Alpine barrier, i.e. manifesting as a north-easterly, low-level flow over much of the north-eastern Italian plains. This blocked flow seemed to interact with the larger-scale synoptic flow to form a distinct and persistent low-level convergence in the area of the Veneto coast.

It is suggested that these low-level convergence patterns are key in releasing the convective instability present in the larger-scale flow just on the Veneto coastal area. Hereby, it is the synoptic rather than the convective setting which dictated the observed timescales of intense rainfall. Therefore, the convective rainfall rates paired with the synoptic durations combine to produce the exceptionally high rainfall accumulations observed. Cases like these are significant contributors to forming the coastal precipitation climatology, which for this area is found to be distinctly different than for the rest of the region in terms of precipitation concentration.