Responses of European precipitation distributions and regimes to different blocking locations

Pedro M. Sousa, Ricardo M. Trigo, David Barriopedro, Pedro M. M. Soares, Alexandre M. Ramos, Margarida L. R. Liberato
Clim Dyn, DOI: 10.1007/s00382-016-3132-5

Download PDF


In this work we performed an analysis on the impacts of blocking episodes on seasonal and annual European precipitation and the associated physical mechanisms. Distinct domains were considered in detail taking into account different blocking center positions spanning between the Atlantic and western Russia. Significant positive precipitation anomalies are found for southernmost areas while generalized negative anomalies (up to 75 % in some areas) occur in large areas of central and northern Europe. This dipole of anomalies is reversed when compared to that observed during episodes of strong zonal flow conditions. We illustrate that the location of the maximum precipitation anomalies follows quite well the longitudinal positioning of the blocking centers and discuss regional and seasonal differences in the precipitation responses. To better understand the precipitation anomalies, we explore the blocking influence on cyclonic activity. The results indicate a split of the storm-tracks north and south of blocking systems, leading to an almost complete reduction of cyclonic centers in northern and central Europe and increases in southern areas, where cyclone frequency doubles during blocking episodes. However, the underlying processes conductive to the precipitation anomalies are distinct between northern and southern European regions, with a significant role of atmospheric instability in southern Europe, and moisture availability as the major driver at higher latitudes. This distinctive underlying process is coherent with the characteristic patterns of latent heat release from the ocean associated with blocked and strong zonal flow patterns. We also analyzed changes in the full range of the precipitation distribution of several regional sectors during blocked and zonal days. Results show that precipitation reductions in the areas under direct blocking influence are driven by a substantial drop in the frequency of moderate rainfall classes. Contrarily, southwards of blocking systems, frequency increases in moderate to extreme rainfall classes largely determine the precipitation anomaly in the accumulated totals. In this context, we show the close relationship between the more intrinsic torrential nature of Mediterranean precipitation regimes and the role of blocking systems in increasing the probability of extreme events.