Paper Published by Lavers, Villarini

Friday, July 19, 2013

A paper by David Lavers, postdoctoral research scholar at IIHR--Hydroscience & Engineering, and Gabriele Villarini, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering and assistant research engineer at IIHR, was selected by the editors of Geophysical Research Letters as an AGU "Research Spotlight."  The summary of the work, titled "The nexus between atmospheric rivers and extreme precipitation across Europe," will be featured in Eos, AGU's weekly newspaper, and distributed to other media.

Atmospheric rivers, narrow filaments of enhanced water vapor transport in the atmosphere, have been shown to be linked to extreme rainfall and flooding in some areas, especially western North America. Lavers and Villarini now show that atmospheric rivers are also responsible for a significant portion of days of high precipitation in Western Europe.

The authors investigated the link between atmospheric rivers and annual maxima daily precipitation across Europe over the period from 1979 to 2011. First they applied an algorithm to identify atmospheric rivers in water vapor transport data, and detected a total of 432 atmospheric rivers over the study period. Then they looked at the dates of the annual maxima precipitation events, and associated an atmospheric river with an annual maximum precipitation event if the precipitation occurred on the same day or on the day after an atmospheric river occurred.

They found that the effects of atmospheric rivers are felt as far inland as Germany and Poland, with the strongest links between annual precipitation maxima and atmospheric rivers in mountainous areas. In some areas, most of the largest annual maxima precipitation events were linked to atmospheric rivers. For instance, in some locations in Scotland, southwest England, northern France, and Norway, 8 out of the 10 top annual maxima precipitation events were associated with atmospheric rivers. The results show that atmospheric rivers are important in explaining the extreme precipitation distribution in Western Europe.