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Where Does the Iberian Peninsula Moisture Come From? An Answer Based on a Lagrangian Approach

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  • 1 EPhysLab, Universidade de Vigo, Ourense, Spain
  • | 2 EPhysLab, Universidade de Vigo, Ourense, Spain, and CGUL, IDL, University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal
  • | 3 CGUL, IDL, University of Lisbon, and Departamento de Engenharias, Universidade Lusófona, Lisbon, Portugal
  • | 4 Instituto Pirenaico de Ecología (CSIC), Zaragoza, Spain
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Abstract

This study investigated the main sources of moisture in the atmosphere over the Iberian Peninsula (IP) at annual and seasonal scales using FLEXPART, a powerful new 3D Lagrangian diagnosis method that identifies the humidity contributions to the moisture budget of a region. This method can identify moisture sources at lower cost and with greater accuracy than standard isotopic content methods. The results are based on back-tracking analysis of all air masses residing over the IP in the 5-yr period from 2000 to 2004. The results show that the two most important moisture source regions affecting the IP are in a tropical–subtropical North Atlantic corridor that extends from the Gulf of Mexico to the IP, and the IP itself and the surrounding Mediterranean. The importance of these two source areas varies throughout the year, and also with respect to different climatic regions inside the IP. The former source region is the dominant moisture source for the entire IP during winter and in western regions throughout the year, whereas the latter source region dominates the moisture supply to the IP in summer and in the eastern Mediterranean region of the IP throughout the year. The results also demonstrate that winter precipitation in the IP is influenced by both atmospheric instability that forces air masses to rise, and the supply of moisture from the tropical–subtropical North Atlantic corridor on a daily scale and a seasonal basis. Thus, a combination of high (low) moisture supply from the North Atlantic corridor and high (low) atmospheric instability appears to be responsible for the most recent wet (dry) winter in the IP.

Corresponding author address: Luis Gimeno, EPhysLab, Universidade de Vigo, 32004 Ourense, Spain. Email: l.gimeno@uvigo.es

Abstract

This study investigated the main sources of moisture in the atmosphere over the Iberian Peninsula (IP) at annual and seasonal scales using FLEXPART, a powerful new 3D Lagrangian diagnosis method that identifies the humidity contributions to the moisture budget of a region. This method can identify moisture sources at lower cost and with greater accuracy than standard isotopic content methods. The results are based on back-tracking analysis of all air masses residing over the IP in the 5-yr period from 2000 to 2004. The results show that the two most important moisture source regions affecting the IP are in a tropical–subtropical North Atlantic corridor that extends from the Gulf of Mexico to the IP, and the IP itself and the surrounding Mediterranean. The importance of these two source areas varies throughout the year, and also with respect to different climatic regions inside the IP. The former source region is the dominant moisture source for the entire IP during winter and in western regions throughout the year, whereas the latter source region dominates the moisture supply to the IP in summer and in the eastern Mediterranean region of the IP throughout the year. The results also demonstrate that winter precipitation in the IP is influenced by both atmospheric instability that forces air masses to rise, and the supply of moisture from the tropical–subtropical North Atlantic corridor on a daily scale and a seasonal basis. Thus, a combination of high (low) moisture supply from the North Atlantic corridor and high (low) atmospheric instability appears to be responsible for the most recent wet (dry) winter in the IP.

Corresponding author address: Luis Gimeno, EPhysLab, Universidade de Vigo, 32004 Ourense, Spain. Email: l.gimeno@uvigo.es

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