Articles | Volume 13, issue 9
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 13, 2239–2251, 2013
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 13, 2239–2251, 2013

Research article 12 Sep 2013

Research article | 12 Sep 2013

Explosive development of winter storm Xynthia over the subtropical North Atlantic Ocean

M. L. R. Liberato1,2, J. G. Pinto3,4, R. M. Trigo2,5, P. Ludwig3, P. Ordóñez1, D. Yuen3, and I. F. Trigo2,6 M. L. R. Liberato et al.
  • 1Escola de Ciências e Tecnologia, Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro (UTAD), Vila Real, Portugal
  • 2Instituto Dom Luiz (IDL), Universidade de Lisboa, Lisboa, Portugal
  • 3Institute for Geophysics and Meteorology, University of Cologne, Cologne, Germany
  • 4Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, Reading, UK
  • 5Departamento de Engenharias, Universidade Lusófona, Lisboa, Portugal
  • 6Instituto Português do Mar e da Atmosfera (IPMA), Lisboa, Portugal

Abstract. In winter of 2009–2010 south-western Europe was hit by several destructive windstorms. The most important was Xynthia (26–28 February 2010), which caused 64 reported casualties and was classified as the 2nd most expensive natural hazard event for 2010 in terms of economic losses. In this work we assess the synoptic evolution, dynamical characteristics and the main impacts of storm Xynthia, whose genesis, development and path were very uncommon. Wind speed gusts observed at more than 500 stations across Europe are evaluated as well as the wind gust field obtained with a regional climate model simulation for the entire North Atlantic and European area. Storm Xynthia was first identified on 25 February around 30° N, 50° W over the subtropical North Atlantic Ocean. Its genesis occurred on a region characterized by warm and moist air under the influence of a strong upper level wave embedded in the westerlies. Xynthia followed an unusual SW–NE path towards Iberia, France and central Europe. The role of moist air masses on the explosive development of Xynthia is analysed by considering the evaporative sources. A lagrangian model is used to identify the moisture sources, sinks and moisture transport associated with the cyclone during its development phase. The main supply of moisture is located over an elongated region of the subtropical North Atlantic Ocean with anomalously high SST, confirming that the explosive development of storm Xynthia had a significant contribution from the subtropics.

Final-revised paper