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Spatial precipitation patterns and trends in The Netherlands during 1951–2009

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ABSTRACT

Significant increases in precipitation have been observed in The Netherlands over the last century. At the same time persistent spatial variations are apparent. The objective of this study is to analyse and explain these spatial patterns, focussing on changes in means and extremes for the period 1951–2009. To investigate different possibilities for the causes of spatial variations, a distinction was made between six regions based on mean precipitation, soil type and elevation, and four zones at different distances to the coast. Spatial maxima in mean precipitation inland and over elevated areas are mainly formed in winter and spring, while maxima along the coast are generated in autumn. Daily precipitation maxima are found in the central West coast and over elevated areas. Upward trends in daily precipitation are highest from February to April and lowest from July to September. The strongest and most significant increases are found along the coast. For several seasonal and climatological periods diverging behaviour between coastal and inland zones is observed. We find that distance to the coast gives a more consistent picture for the seasonal precipitation changes than a classification based on surface characteristics. Therefore, from the investigated surface factors, we consider sea surface temperature to have the largest influence on precipitation in The Netherlands.

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