Articles | Volume 14, issue 13
Research article
01 Jul 2014
Research article |  | 01 Jul 2014

Comparison of Eulerian and Lagrangian moisture source diagnostics – the flood event in eastern Europe in May 2010

A. Winschall, S. Pfahl, H. Sodemann, and H. Wernli

Abstract. Moisture convergence from different sources is an important prerequisite for a heavy-precipitation event. The contributions from different source regions can, however, hardly be quantified from observations, and their assessment based on model results is complex. Two conceptually different numerical methods are widely used for the quantification of moisture sources: Lagrangian approaches based on the analysis of humidity variations along backward trajectories and Eulerian methods based on the implementation of moisture tracers into a numerical model. In this study the moisture sources for a high-impact, heavy-precipitation event that affected eastern Europe in May 2010 are studied with both Eulerian and Lagrangian moisture source diagnostics. The precipitation event was connected to a cyclone that developed over northern Africa, moved over the Mediterranean towards eastern Europe and induced transport of moist air towards the Carpathian Mountains. Heavy precipitation and major flooding occurred in Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia between 16 and 18 May 2010. The Lagrangian and Eulerian diagnostics consistently indicate a wide spatial and temporal range of moisture sources contributing to the event. The source with the largest share is local evapotranspiration from the European land surface, followed by moisture from the North Atlantic. Further contributions come from tropical western Africa (10–20° N) and the Mediterranean Sea. Contrary to what could be expected, the Mediterranean contribution of about 10% is relatively small. A detailed analysis of exemplary trajectories corroborates the general consistency of the two approaches, and underlines their complementarity. The Lagrangian method allows for mapping out moisture source regions with computational efficiency, whereas the more elaborate Eulerian model requires predefined moisture sources, but includes also processes such as precipitation, evaporation and turbulent mixing. However, in the Eulerian model, uncertainty concerning the relative importance of remote versus local moisture sources arises from different options to parameterise moisture tagging at the surface. Ultimately a more sophisticated parameterisation scheme will be required to reduce this uncertainty.

Final-revised paper