A numerical study to investigate the roles of former Hurricane Leslie, orography and evaporative cooling in the 2018 Aude heavy-precipitation event

Mandement, Marc ; Caumont, Olivier

Année de publication
2021
Résumé
<p align=justify>In south-eastern France, the Mediterranean coast is regularly affected by heavy-precipitation events. On 14-15 October 2018, in the Aude department, a back-building quasi-stationary mesoscale convective system produced up to about 300 mm of rain in 11 h. At synoptic scale, the former Hurricane Leslie was involved in the formation of a Mediterranean surface low that channelled conditionally unstable air towards the coast. At mesoscale, convective cells focused west of a decaying cold front that became quasi-stationary and downwind of the terrain. To investigate the roles of the moisture provided by Leslie, orography and evaporative cooling among the physical processes that led to the location and intensity of the observed rainfall, numerical simulations are run at 1 km and 500 m horizontal grid spacing and evaluated with independent near-surface analyses including novel crowd-sourced observations of personal weather stations. Simulations show that, in a first part of the event, low-level conditionally unstable air parcels found inside strong updraughts mainly originated from areas east of the Balearic Islands, over the Mediterranean Sea, whereas in a second part, an increasing number originated from Leslie's remnants. Air masses from areas east of the Balearic Islands appeared as the first supplier of moisture over the entire event. Still, Leslie contributed to substantially moistening mid-levels over the Aude department, diminishing evaporation processes. Thus, the evaporative cooling over the Aude department did not play any substantial role in the stationarity of the quasi-stationary front. Regarding lifting mechanisms, the advection of conditionally unstable air by a low-level jet towards the quasi-stationary front, confined to altitudes below 2 km, reactivated convection along and downwind of the front. Most of the air parcels found inside strong updraughts near the location of the maximum rainfall were lifted above the quasi-stationary front. Downwind of the Albera Massif, mountains bordering the Mediterranean Sea, cells formed by orographic lifting were maintained by low-level leeward convergence, mountain lee waves and a favourable directional wind shear; when terrain is flattened, rainfall is substantially reduced. The location of the exceptional precipitation was primarily driven by the location of the quasi-stationary front and secondarily by the location of convective bands downwind of orography.</p>
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