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Joël Arnault, Thomas Rummler, Florian Baur, Sebastian Lerch, Sven Wagner, Benjamin Fersch, Zhenyu Zhang, Noah Kerandi, Christian Keil, and Harald Kunstmann

Abstract

Precipitation is affected by soil moisture spatial variability. However, this variability is not well represented in atmospheric models that do not consider soil moisture transport as a three-dimensional process. This study investigates the sensitivity of precipitation to the uncertainty in the representation of terrestrial water flow. The tools used for this investigation are the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model and its hydrologically enhanced version, WRF-Hydro, applied over central Europe during April–October 2008. The model grid is convection permitting, with a horizontal spacing of 2.8 km. The WRF-Hydro subgrid employs a 280-m resolution to resolve lateral terrestrial water flow. A WRF/WRF-Hydro ensemble is constructed by modifying the parameter controlling the partitioning between surface runoff and infiltration and by varying the planetary boundary layer (PBL) scheme. This ensemble represents terrestrial water flow uncertainty originating from the consideration of resolved lateral flow, terrestrial water flow uncertainty in the vertical direction, and turbulence parameterization uncertainty. The uncertainty of terrestrial water flow noticeably increases the normalized ensemble spread of daily precipitation where topography is moderate, surface flux spatial variability is high, and the weather regime is dominated by local processes. The adjusted continuous ranked probability score shows that the PBL uncertainty improves the skill of an ensemble subset in reproducing daily precipitation from the E-OBS observational product by 16%–20%. In comparison to WRF, WRF-Hydro improves this skill by 0.4%–0.7%. The reproduction of observed daily discharge with Nash–Sutcliffe model efficiency coefficients generally above 0.3 demonstrates the potential of WRF-Hydro in hydrological science.

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Thomas Engel, Andreas H. Fink, Peter Knippertz, Gregor Pante, and Jan Bliefernicht

Abstract

Two extreme, high-impact events of heavy rainfall and severe floods in West African urban areas (Ouagadougou on 1 September 2009 and Dakar on 26 August 2012) are investigated with respect to their atmospheric causes and statistical return periods. In terms of the synoptic–convective dynamics, the Ouagadougou case is truly extraordinary. A succession of two slow-moving African easterly waves (AEWs) caused record-breaking values of tropospheric moisture. The second AEW, one of the strongest in recent decades, provided the synoptic forcing for the nighttime genesis of mesoscale convective systems (MCSs). Ouagadougou was hit by two MCSs within 6 h, as the strong convergence and rotation in the AEW-related vortex allowed a swift moisture refueling. An AEW was also instrumental in the overnight development of MCSs in the Dakar case, but neither the AEW vortex nor the tropospheric moisture content was as exceptional as in the Ouagadougou case. Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) 3B42 precipitation data show some promise in estimating centennial return values (RVs) using the “peak over threshold” approach with a generalized Pareto distribution fit, although indications for errors in estimating extreme rainfall over the arid Sahel are found. In contrast, the Precipitation Estimation from Remotely Sensed Information Using Artificial Neural Networks–Climate Data Record (PERSIANN-CDR) dataset seems less suitable for this purpose despite the longer record. Notably, the Ouagadougou event demonstrates that highly unusual dynamical developments can create extremes well outside of RV estimates from century-long rainfall observations. Future research will investigate whether such developments may become more frequent in a warmer climate.

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