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Publication: Climatology and ranking of hazardous precipitation events in the western Mediterranean area

Notícia | 23-02-2021

The western Mediterranean region often suffers from the devastating effects of flooding, caused by enormous rain accumulations that sometimes resemble the values produced by tropical systems. Despite the climatic and social relevancy of this type of episodes, there are some fundamental questions that would still be difficult to answer today, for example: where within the region are more cases recorded? or, which were the most potentially dangerous episodes? In this study, we identify, and then gather and unify information from, all the daily events occurred from 1980 to 2015. Using the MESCAN high-resolution gridded rainfall dataset, events are detected and for each case, the date and affected regions are recorded. Subsequently, events are ranked according to their magnitude and classified by weather type. In addition, flood data from the FLOODHYMEX and EM-DAT databases are used to check whether the precipitation episodes resulted in flooding. All this information is collected into a publicly available single database. Results show that the highest number of events per year is recorded in the Languedoc-Roussillon region (France) and in the Valencian Community (Spain). The cases of greatest magnitude, which are associated with a larger number of floods, present a very marked seasonality, with about 80% of them occurring in September, October and November. Finally, we show that only four weather types are present in most of the days with hazardous rainfall in the western Mediterranean. The most hazardous situation is characterized by a low-pressure area at all tropospheric levels in the eastern Atlantic, forming a block pattern with an anticyclonic ridge that tends to extend from the Central Mediterranean to Central Europe. About 40% of the most extraordinary cases are associated with this configuration. As an example, the infamous Piedmont (Italy) 1994 episode, in the top 10 of the ranking, was produced by an atmospheric pattern of this type.