The Beijing extreme rainfall of 21 July 2012: “Right results” but for wrong reasons



[1] The heaviest rainfall in 6 decades fell in Beijing on 21 July 2012 with a record-breaking amount of 460 mm in 18 h and hourly rainfall rates exceeding 85 mm. This extreme rainfall event appeared to be reasonably well predicted by current operational models, albeit with notable timing and location errors. However, our analysis reveals that the model-predicted rainfall results mainly from topographical lifting and the passage of a cold front, whereas the observed rainfall was mostly generated by convective cells that were triggered by local topography and then propagated along a quasi-stationary linear convective system into Beijing. In particular, most of the extreme rainfall occurred in the warm sector far ahead of the cold front. Evidence from a cloud-permitting simulation indicates the importance of using high-resolution cloud-permitting models to reproduce the above-mentioned rainfall-production mechanisms in order to more accurately predict the timing, distribution, and intensity of such an extreme event.