Moisture recycling in the Iberian Peninsula from a regional climate simulation: Spatiotemporal analysis and impact on the precipitation regime

Alexandre Rios-Entenza, Pedro M. M. Soares, Ricardo M. Trigo, Rita M. Cardoso, Gonzalo Miguez-Macho
Journal of Geophysical Research. doi: 10.1002/2013JD021274

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The contribution of the evapotranspiration from a certain region to the precipitation over the same area is referred to as water recycling. In this paper, we explore the spatiotemporal links between the recycling mechanism and the Iberian rainfall regime. We use a 9 km resolution Weather Research and Forecasting simulation of 18 years (19902007) to compute local and regional recycling ratios over Iberia, at the monthly scale, through both an analytical and a numerical recycling model. In contrast to coastal areas, the interior of Iberia experiences a relative maximum of precipitation in spring, suggesting a prominent role of land-atmosphere interactions on the inland precipitation regime during this period of the year. Local recycling ratios are the highest in spring and early summer, coinciding with those areas where this spring peak of rainfall represents the absolute maximum in the annual cycle. This confirms that recycling processes are crucial to explain the Iberian spring precipitation, particularly over the eastern and northeastern sectors. Average monthly recycling values range from 0.04 in December to 0.14 in June according to the numerical model and from 0.03 in December to 0.07 in May according to the analytical procedure. Our analysis shows that the highest values of recycling are limited by the coexistence of two necessary mechanisms: (1) the availability of sufficient soil moisture and (2) the occurrence of appropriate synoptic configurations favoring the development of convective regimes. The analyzed surplus of rainfall in spring has a critical impact on agriculture over large semiarid regions of the interior of Iberia.