Extreme precipitation events in the Middle East: Dynamics of the Active Red Sea Trough



[1] The Active Red Sea Trough (ARST) is an infrequent weather phenomenon that is associated with extreme precipitation, flash floods, and severe societal impacts in the Middle East (ME). Using reanalysis (ERA-Interim) and observational precipitation (Aphrodite and stations) data, we investigate its underlying dynamics, geographical extent, and seasonality. Twelve ARST events affecting the Levant have the same dynamical characteristics as those associated with a major flood in Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) on 25 November 2009. Hence, the Jeddah flooding was caused by an ARST, which implies that ARSTs can affect a much larger part of the ME than previously assumed. We present an ARST concept involving six dynamical factors: (1) a low-level trough; the Red Sea Trough (RST), (2) an anticyclone over the Arabian Peninsula; the Arabian Anticyclone (AA), (3) a transient midlatitude upper trough, (4) an intensified subtropical jet stream, (5) moisture transport pathways, and (6) strong ascent resulting from tropospheric instability and the synoptic-scale dynamical forcing. We explain the ARST as the interaction of a persistent stationary wave in the tropical easterlies (i.e., the RST) with a superimposed amplifying Rossby wave, resulting in northward propagating moist air masses over the Red Sea. Our findings emphasize the relevance of the AA, causing moisture transport from the Arabian and Red Seas. The particular topography in the Red Sea region and associated low-level circulation makes the ARST unique among tropical-extratropical interactions. The ARST seasonality is explained by the large-scale circulation and in particular the seasonal cycle of the semipermanent quasi-stationary RST and AA.