Articles | Volume 13, issue 5
Research article
16 May 2013
Research article |  | 16 May 2013

Analysis of extreme summers and prior late winter/spring conditions in central Europe

C. Träger-Chatterjee, R. W. Müller, and J. Bendix

Abstract. Drought and heat waves during summer in mid-latitudes are a serious threat to human health and agriculture and have negative impacts on the infrastructure, such as problems in energy supply. The appearance of such extreme events is expected to increase with the progress of global warming. A better understanding of the development of extremely hot and dry summers and the identification of possible precursors could help improve existing seasonal forecasts in this regard, and could possibly lead to the development of early warning methods.

The development of extremely hot and dry summer seasons in central Europe is attributed to a combined effect of the dominance of anticyclonic weather regimes and soil moisture–atmosphere interactions. The atmospheric circulation largely determines the amount of solar irradiation and the amount of precipitation in an area. These two variables are themselves major factors controlling the soil moisture. Thus, solar irradiation and precipitation are used as proxies to analyse extreme sunny and dry late winter/spring and summer seasons for the period 1958–2011 in Germany and adjacent areas.

For this purpose, solar irradiation data from the European Center for Medium Range Weather Forecast 40-yr and interim re-analysis dataset, as well as remote sensing data are used. Precipitation data are taken from the Global Precipitation Climatology Project. To analyse the atmospheric circulation geopotential data at 850 hPa are also taken from the European Center for Medium Range Weather Forecast 40-yr and interim re-analysis datasets.

For the years in which extreme summers in terms of high solar irradiation and low precipitation are identified, the previous late winter/spring conditions of solar irradiation and precipitation in Germany and adjacent areas are analysed. Results show that if the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is not very intensely developed, extremely high solar irradiation amounts, together with extremely low precipitation amounts during late winter/spring, might serve as precursor of extremely sunny and dry summer months to be expected.