Climatological aspects of the extreme European rainfall of August 2002 and a trajectory method for estimating the associated evaporative source regions
- 1Department of Ecology, Technical University of Munich, Germany
- 2Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, NOAA Aeronomy Laboratory, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA
Abstract. During the first half of August 2002, a sequence of extreme precipitation episodes affected many regions of central and southern Europe, culminating in one of the most severe flooding events ever experienced along sections of the river Elbe and its tributaries. In this paper, the synoptic meteorological situation during the primary flooding event, 11-13 August 2002, and its recent background is illustrated and discussed. Then, backward trajectory modelling of water vapour transport is employed to determine the sources and transport pathways of the moisture which rained out during the event. The Lagrangian trajectory model FLEXTRA is used together with high resolution operational meteorological analyses from the ECMWF to track a very large number of trajectories, initialized in a dense three-dimensional grid array over the extreme rainfall region. Specific humidity changes along each trajectory are mapped out to yield source-receptor relationships between evaporation and subsequent precipitation for the event. Regions of significant surface evaporation of moisture which later rained out were determined to be parts of the Aegean and Ligurian Seas during the initial stages of the event, while strong evaporation from eastern European land surfaces and from the Black Sea became dominant later on. The method also provides precipitation estimates based solely on specific humidity changes along Lagrangian airmass trajectories, which can be compared to ECMWF model forecast precipitation estimates.