Extreme precipitation in the arid Middle East can cause flash floods with dramatic societal impacts. This study investigates the synoptic-scale dynamics of three extreme precipitation events that occurred in Saudi Arabia in autumn, winter and spring. Using ERA-Interim reanalysis, soundings and observational precipitation data, we study precipitation characteristics, the synoptic circulations, moisture transport pathways and forcing mechanisms for upward motion. All three cases involved strong tropical-extratropical interactions whereby midlatitude forcing instigated an incursion of tropical moisture over the Arabian Peninsula that fuelled the heavy rainfall. In each case, a midlatitude upper-level trough, associated with anticyclonic Rossby wave breaking, intruded into the subtropics. The phase relationship between this trough and the tropical low-level circulation was consistent with wave amplification through baroclinic growth. Eulerian and Lagrangian analyses reveal moisture transport from nearby and remote tropical regions, leading to above-normal tropospheric moisture content over Saudi Arabia. The autumn case (November 2009) showed a transient midlatitude upper-level trough that interacted with the climatological Red Sea Trough near the surface, being an 'Active Red Sea Trough' event. The winter case (January 2005) resembled tropical plume-like characteristics and demonstrated the coupling of a midlatitude cyclone and the equatorial low-pressure zone over Africa, an intensified subtropical jet stream, and pronounced moisture fluxes at middle and upper levels. The spring case (April-May 2013) involved a quasi-stationary cut-off low and persistent advection of low-level moist air masses, partly from the south Indian Ocean through cross-equatorial flow. The forcing of ascent was associated with low-level moisture convergence and decreased static stability (autumn case), dynamical lifting (winter case), strong surface sensible heating (spring case), and orographic lifting (all cases), favouring the build-up and release of potential instability. We discuss the three cases from a seasonal perspective and present a synthesis of their common key synoptic features.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||19|
|Journal||Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society|
|State||Published - Apr 1 2016|
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Atmospheric Science