Sea surface temperature and torrential rains in the Valencia region: modelling the role of recharge areas
Abstract. Heavy rain events are frequently recorded in the Western Mediterranean causing economic losses and even human casualties. The Western Mediterranean is a deep and almost closed sea surrounded by high mountain ranges and with little exchange of water with the Atlantic ocean. A main factor in the development of torrential rains is ocean-atmosphere exchanges of heat and moisture that can potentially destabilize air masses travelling over the sea. The study of air mass trajectories previous to the rain event permits the identification of sea areas that could probably contribute to the development or intensification of rainfall. From a previous Mediterranean sea surface temperature climatology, its spatio-temporal distribution patterns have been studied showing two main distribution modes in winter and summer and transitional regimes in spring and autumn. Hence, three heavy precipitation events, for such winter and summer sea temperature regimes and for fall transition, affecting the Valencia region have been selected to study the effect of sea surface temperature in torrential rains. Simulations with perturbed sea surface temperature in different areas along the air mass path were run to compare results with unperturbed simulation. The variation of sea surface temperature in certain areas caused significant changes in model accumulated values and its spatial distribution. Therefore, the existence of areas that at a greater extent favour air-sea interaction leading to the development of torrential rainfall in the Valencia region has been shown. This methodology could be extended to the whole Mediterranean basin to look for such potential recharge areas. The identification of sea areas that contribute to the development or intensification of heavy rain events in the Mediterranean countries could be a useful prognosis and/or monitoring tool.