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Heavy rainfall in Mediterranean cyclones. Part I: contribution of deep convection and warm conveyor belt

Flaounas, Emmanouil, Kotroni, Vassiliki, Lagouvardos, Konstantinos, Gray, SuzanneL., Rysman, Jean-François, Claud, Chantal
Climate dynamics 2018 v.50 no.7-8 pp. 2935-2949
climate, convection, rain, risk, satellites, temporal variation
In this study, we provide an insight to the role of deep convection (DC) and the warm conveyor belt (WCB) as leading processes to Mediterranean cyclones’ heavy rainfall. To this end, we use reanalysis data, lighting and satellite observations to quantify the relative contribution of DC and the WCB to cyclone rainfall, as well as to analyse the spatial and temporal variability of these processes with respect to the cyclone centre and life cycle. Results for the period 2005–2015 show that the relationship between cyclone rainfall and intensity has high variability and demonstrate that even intense cyclones may produce low rainfall amounts. However, when considering rainfall averages for cyclone intensity bins, a linear relationship was found. We focus on the 500 most intense tracked cyclones (responsible for about 40–50% of the total 11-year Mediterranean rainfall) and distinguish between the ones producing high and low rainfall amounts. DC and the WCB are found to be the main cause of rainfall for the former (producing up to 70% of cyclone rainfall), while, for the latter, DC and the WCB play a secondary role (producing up to 50% of rainfall). Further analysis showed that rainfall due to DC tends to occur close to the cyclones’ centre and to their eastern sides, while the WCBs tend to produce rainfall towards the northeast. In fact, about 30% of rainfall produced by DC overlaps with rainfall produced by WCBs but this represents only about 8% of rainfall produced by WCBs. This suggests that a considerable percentage of DC is associated with embedded convection in WCBs. Finally, DC was found to be able to produce higher rain rates than WCBs, exceeding 50 mm in 3-h accumulated rainfall compared to a maximum of the order of 40 mm for WCBs. Our results demonstrate in a climatological framework the relationship between cyclone intensity and processes that lead to heavy rainfall, one of the most prominent environmental risks in the Mediterranean. Therefore, we set perspectives for a deeper analysis of the favourable atmospheric conditions that yield high impact weather.