Quantifying the Rain-Shadow Effect: Results from the Peak District, British Isles

Stockham, Alexander J. ; Schultz, David M. ; Fairman, Jonathan G. ; Draude, Adam P.

Année de publication
Although rain shadows (i.e., leeside reductions of precipitation downwind of orography) are commonly described in textbooks, quantitative climatologies of the rain-shadow effect are rare. To test quantitatively a classic rain-shadow locality of the Peak District, United Kingdom, precipitation from 54 observing stations over 30 years (1981-2010) are examined. Under 850-hPa westerlies, annual and daily precipitation amounts are on average higher in Manchester in the west and the Peak District than in Sheffield in the east. More precipitation falls-and falls more frequently-frequently in Manchester than Sheffield on 197 westerly flow days annually. In contrast, more precipitation falls-and falls more frequently-in Sheffield than Manchester on 28 easterly flow days annually. These bulk precipitation statistics support a climatological rain shadow. However, when individual days are investigated, only 17% of westerly flow days occur where daily rainfall data might exhibit the rain-shadow effect (defined here as Manchester with precipitation and Sheffield with no precipitation). In contrast, only 10% of easterly flow days occur where daily rainfall data might exhibit the rain-shadow effect (Sheffield with precipitation and Manchester with no precipitation). Thus, westerly winds are more likely to exhibit a rain-shadow effect than easterly winds. Although the distribution of precipitation observed across the Peak District can sometimes be explained by the rain-shadow effect, the occurrence of the rain-shadow effect by our admittedly strict definition is not as frequent as one might expect to explain the local precipitation climate for which it has sometimes been previously credited. Thus, an attempt to understand the climatological relevance of the rain-shadow effect from one location reveals ambiguity in the definition of a rain shadow and in its interpretation from real rainfall data.

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