On the relationship between water vapour field evolution and the life cycle of precipitation systems



In this work, we investigate the relationship between the structure and evolution (from initiation to decay) of precipitation systems, and the associated water vapour distributions during the COPS (Convective Orographically-induced Precipitation Study). This international field campaign took place over an area from the Vosges to the Black Forest Mountains, across the Rhine Valley, in summer 2007. In particular, we consider water vapour retrieval through GPS integrated water vapour 2D maps and 3D tomography, and compare these to precipitation systems observed with the ground-based C-band POLDIRAD weather radar.

We have demonstrated the predominant role of water vapour as a precursor to convective initiation for local convective cell generation. Water vapour accumulation on the crest of the orography is associated with ridge convection, while water vapour passing over the mountain top and creating valley outflows generates lee-side convection, often triggered by a small hill positioned within or close to the valley exit, or by a local convergence with the water vapour field over the plain.

We have also noted that frontal systems seem to develop preferentially where the largest amount of water vapour is available. Likewise, in the case of frontal systems, well-formed synoptic-scale storms are associated with high water vapour signatures, while weaker systems with embedded convection appear to trail high water vapour areas where the convective element is associated with local water vapour depletion. This latter aspect could be the signature of convective cloud formation, when water vapour is transferred into liquid water, before the onset of precipitation. Copyright © 2011 Royal Meteorological Society