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Keywords:

  • Alpine region;
  • mountain climate;
  • spatial analysis;
  • extreme events;
  • Alpine climatology

ABSTRACT

In the region of the European Alps, national and regional meteorological services operate rain-gauge networks, which together, constitute one of the densest in situ observation systems in a large-scale high-mountain region. Data from these networks are consistently analyzed, in this study, to develop a pan-Alpine grid dataset and to describe the region's mesoscale precipitation climate, including the occurrence of heavy precipitation and long dry periods. The analyses are based on a collation of high-resolution rain-gauge data from seven Alpine countries, with 5500 measurements per day on average, spanning the period 1971–2008. The dataset is an update of an earlier version with improved data density and more thorough quality control. The grid dataset has a grid spacing of 5 km, daily time resolution, and was constructed with a distance-angular weighting scheme that integrates climatological precipitation–topography relationships. Scales effectively resolved in the dataset are coarser than the grid spacing and vary in time and space, depending on station density. We quantify the uncertainty of the dataset by cross-validation and in relation to topographic complexity, data density and season. Results indicate that grid point estimates are systematically underestimated (overestimated) at large (small) precipitation intensities, when they are interpreted as point estimates. Our climatological analyses highlight interesting variations in indicators of daily precipitation that deviate from the pattern and course of mean precipitation and illustrate the complex role of topography. The daily Alpine precipitation grid dataset was developed as part of the EU funded EURO4M project and is freely available for scientific use.