Articles | Volume 12, issue 3
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 12, 715–730, 2012
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 12, 715–730, 2012

Research article 23 Mar 2012

Research article | 23 Mar 2012

The 20 February 2010 Madeira flash-floods: synoptic analysis and extreme rainfall assessment

M. Fragoso1, R. M. Trigo2, J. G. Pinto3, S. Lopes1,4, A. Lopes1, S. Ulbrich3, and C. Magro4 M. Fragoso et al.
  • 1IGOT, University of Lisbon, Portugal
  • 2IDL, Faculty of Sciences, University of Lisbon, Portugal
  • 3Institute for Geophysics and Meteorology, University of Cologne, Germany
  • 4Laboratório Regional de Engenharia Civil, R.A. Madeira, Portugal

Abstract. This study aims to characterise the rainfall exceptionality and the meteorological context of the 20 February 2010 flash-floods in Madeira (Portugal). Daily and hourly precipitation records from the available rain-gauge station networks are evaluated in order to reconstitute the temporal evolution of the rainstorm, as its geographic incidence, contributing to understand the flash-flood dynamics and the type and spatial distribution of the associated impacts. The exceptionality of the rainstorm is further confirmed by the return period associated with the daily precipitation registered at the two long-term record stations, with 146.9 mm observed in the city of Funchal and 333.8 mm on the mountain top, corresponding to an estimated return period of approximately 290 yr and 90 yr, respectively. Furthermore, the synoptic associated situation responsible for the flash-floods is analysed using different sources of information, e.g., weather charts, reanalysis data, Meteosat images and radiosounding data, with the focus on two main issues: (1) the dynamical conditions that promoted such anomalous humidity availability over the Madeira region on 20 February 2010 and (2) the uplift mechanism that induced deep convection activity.