Sources of water vapour contributing to the Elbe flood in August 2002—A tagging study in a mesoscale model



In this study we investigate the contribution of various moisture sources to the Elbe flood that occurred in Central Europe during August 2002. An 8-day simulation with the mesoscale numerical weather prediction model CHRM, including newly implemented water vapour tracers, has been performed. According to the simulation, rather than drawing moisture from one single dominant source region, water vapour from widely separated moisture sources contributed to the extreme precipitation in the most affected area, notably at distinct, subsequent periods of time, and each in significant amounts. These moisture sources include the Atlantic and Mediterranean ocean areas inside the model domain, evapotranspiration from land areas, and long-range advection from subtropical areas outside the model domain.

The results highlight the importance of the concurrent upper-level circulation and the mesoscale flow structures associated with the cyclone for producing extreme precipitation in parts of Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic during that period. Furthermore, the numerical and technical problems of implementing water vapour tracers into a limited-area model are discussed, including conservative tracer advection, initialization, boundary treatment, and the handling of precipitation parametrizations. An evaluation of the consistency of the method in terms of water vapour, cloud water, and precipitation is provided, with generally satisfying results. The model with its detailed water vapour tracer implementation can now be used for further case-studies and climatological simulations, and serve as a reference for evaluating the performance of other moisture tracking methods, such as those based on backward trajectories. Copyright © 2009 Royal Meteorological Society