EGU23-2240, updated on 22 Feb 2023
EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Large-scale dynamical drivers associated with sub-daily extreme rainfall in Europe

Anna Whitford1, Hayley Fowler1, Stephen Blenkinsop1, and Rachel White2
Anna Whitford et al.
  • 1Dept of Civil Engineering, Newcastle University, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK
  • 2Dept of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

Short-duration (3hr) extreme rainfall events can cause significant socioeconomic and structural damage, alongside loss of life, due to their ability to generate dangerous flash floods, particularly in urban areas and small catchments. With the projected future increase in the frequency and intensity of these events due to global warming, it is imperative to improve our ability to provide warning to communities that may be impacted by these floods. Large-scale atmospheric dynamics play a role in generating the conditions conducive to the development of local-scale sub-daily extremes, but our current understanding of these processes is limited. Additionally, large-scale circulations are inherently more forecastable than small-scale features such as convection, therefore, this project focuses on finding connections between the large-scale dynamics and sub-daily extremes.

This study uses the quality-controlled Global Sub-Daily Rainfall dataset to identify past extreme events in western Europe. The atmospheric circulation pattern present on the day of each event is extracted from the UK Met Office’s set of 30 weather patterns (WPs) based on mean sea level pressure. This information is then used to examine the intensity and frequency of extreme events under each WP, leading to analysis of the spatial connections between the WPs and sub-daily extremes.

Results indicate just 5 of the 30 WPs account for 53% of recorded 3hr events above the 99.9th percentile in Europe in summer. The important WPs are a mixture of those showing a cyclonic system (cut-off low) close to or over western Europe and those representing a transitional environment. There are also distinct spatial patterns to the relationships in some cases, for example WP11 (isolated low pressure centred over the south-west UK), is associated with very high frequency of extremes over the UK and Portugal but much lower frequencies elsewhere in Europe. The identification of a select group of WPs as important for the generation of sub-daily extremes has implications for forecasting these events at longer lead times, as the large-scale WPs can be predicted further ahead than local conditions.

The WP-based analysis is supplemented by investigation of the links between the sub-daily rainfall extremes and synoptic scale Rossby wave patterns. The Local Finite Amplitude Wave Activity (LWA) metric is used to identify regions of anomalous cyclonic or anticyclonic wave activity both prior to and during the extreme events. This analysis indicates anomalous cyclonic wave activity at certain locations, including over Alaska, to the west of the British Isles and over northern Siberia, is significantly correlated with extreme rainfall over Europe. It is also possible to trace the LWA in days leading up to the extreme events, enabling identification of wave patterns that evolve into conditions associated with the extremes.

These results offer new evidence on the role of large-scale dynamics associated with sub-daily extreme rainfall, whilst also providing powerful information that could be used in the forecasting of these events.

How to cite: Whitford, A., Fowler, H., Blenkinsop, S., and White, R.: Large-scale dynamical drivers associated with sub-daily extreme rainfall in Europe, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-2240,, 2023.

Supplementary materials

Supplementary material file