Original paper

The water vapour flux above Switzerland and its role in the August 2005 extreme precipitation and flooding

Koffi, Ernest N'dri; Graham, Edward; Mätzler, Andchristian

Meteorologische Zeitschrift Vol. 22 No. 3 (2013), p. 328 - 341

published: Jul 1, 2013

DOI: 10.1127/0941-2948/2013/0392

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The water budget approach is applied to an atmospheric box above Switzerland (hereafter referred to as the “Swiss box”) to quantify the atmospheric water vapour flux using ECMWF ERA-Interim reanalyses. The results confirm that the water vapour flux through the Swiss box is highly temporally variable, ranging from 1 to 5 · 107 kg/s during settled anticyclonic weather, but increasing in size by a factor of ten or more during high speed currents of water vapour. Overall, Switzerland and the Swiss box “import” more water vapour than it “exports”, but the amount gained remains only a small fraction (1% to 5%) of the total available water vapour passing by. High inward water vapour fluxes are not necessarily linked to high precipitation episodes. The water vapour flux during the August 2005 floods, which caused severe damage in central Switzerland, is examined and an assessment is made of the computed water vapour fluxes compared to high spatio-temporal rain gauge and radar observations. About 25% of the incoming water vapour flux was stored in Switzerland. The computed water vapour fluxes from ECMWF data compare well with the mean rain gauge observations and the combined rain-gauge radar precipitation products.


august 2005 floodsecmwf era-interimmass balance theoryradarrain gaugesswitzerlandwater budgetwater vapour flux