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  • Author or Editor: Ricardo García-Herrera x
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Daniel Paredes
,
Ricardo M. Trigo
,
Ricardo Garcia-Herrera
, and
Isabel Franco Trigo

Abstract

March monthly accumulated precipitation in the central and western regions of the Iberian Peninsula presents a clear continuous decline of 50% during the 1960–97 period. A finer analysis using daily data reveals that this trend is exactly confined to the month of March. However, this is merely the most visible aspect of a larger phenomenon over the North Atlantic/European sector. The European precipitation trends in March for the period 1960–2000 show a clear distribution of increasing precipitation in the northern regions (the British Isles and parts of Scandinavia) together with decreasing trends throughout the western Mediterranean Basin.

Relevant circulation changes over the North Atlantic and European sectors explain these precipitation trends. First, a regional Eulerian approach by means of a weather-type (WT) classification shows that the major rainfall contributors in March display significantly decreasing frequencies for the Iberian Peninsula, in contrast to the corresponding “wet” weather types for the U.K./Ireland sector, which display increasing frequencies. Within a larger context, a Lagrangian approach, based on the analysis of storm tracks over Europe and the North Atlantic region, reveals dramatic changes in the location of cyclones in the last four decades that coincide with the corresponding precipitation trends in Europe. The North Atlantic Oscillation is suggested to be the most important large-scale factor controlling both the circulation changes and the precipitation trends over the Euro–Atlantic area in March. Finally, the potential impact of reduced precipitation for rivers and water resources in the Iberian Peninsula is considered.

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Ricardo García-Herrera
,
Emiliano Hernández
,
David Barriopedro
,
Daniel Paredes
,
Ricardo M. Trigo
,
Isabel Franco Trigo
, and
Manuel A. Mendes

Abstract

The 2004/05 hydrological year (October 2004 to September 2005) was characterized by intense dry conditions affecting most of western Europe (35°–55°N and 10°W–10°E). In Iberia the drought affected every month of this period, with the southern half of Iberia receiving roughly 40% of the usual precipitation by June 2005. Moreover, this episode stands as the driest event in the last 140 yr, producing major socioeconomic impacts particularly due to the large decrease in hydroelectricity and agricultural production in both Iberian countries (Portugal and Spain).

To assess the atmospheric submonthly circulation associated with this drought an Eulerian [weather types (WTs)] and a Lagrangean (objective storm tracks) analysis were combined. There was a dramatic drop in “wet” WT frequency during winter, with less than 50% of the normal value, and a corresponding increase of “dry” WTs. The storm-track analysis reveals an impressive northward displacement of cyclone trajectories in the North Atlantic sector in winter months, resulting in an almost complete absence of cyclones crossing Iberia and western Europe.

At the monthly scale, the intense drought in Iberia was due to a combination of different physical mechanisms. First, the scarce precipitation observed between November 2004 and January 2005 was associated with positive North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) indexes for these months. In February, the East Atlantic (EA) pattern seems to be the main driver. In March neither the negative NAO (−1.8) nor the positive EA (1.1) are capable of explaining the large negative precipitation anomalies. However, it is shown that during March 2005, an intense and anomalous blocking was displaced southward of its usual location, inhibiting the occurrence of precipitation over Iberia and leading to a negative NAO index anomalously associated with low precipitation records.

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