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Linda Schlemmer, Olivia Martius, Michael Sprenger, Cornelia Schwierz, and Arwen Twitchett


Extreme precipitation events along the Alpine south side (AS) are often forced by upper-level positive potential vorticity (PV) anomalies over western Europe. These so-called PV streamers go along with a dynamical forcing for upward motion, a reduction of the static stability in the troposphere (hence facilitating convection), and are associated with low-level winds that transport moisture toward the Alps.

A case of heavy precipitation is examined using the 40-yr ECMWF Re-Analysis data. Piecewise PV inversion (PPVI) and the limited-area Climate High Resolution Model (CHRM) are used to assess the influences of mesoscale parts of the streamer on the precipitation event. The impacts on the vertical stability are quantified by the convective available potential energy (CAPE) and an index of static stability. Very sensitive areas in terms of the stability are located beneath the southern tip of the streamer; smaller changes in the stability are observed in the Alpine region.

The moisture transport toward the Alps is sensitive to the amplitude of the streamer, which influences the amount of water that can be transported along its eastern flank.

The impacts of the topography on the flow are assessed by calculating an average inverse Froude number. Whether or not the air parcels are blocked by or lifted over the barrier (going along with suppressed and enhanced precipitation, respectively) depends on the vertical stability and the impinging wind velocity, two parameters that are inherently linked to the PV streamer and its substructure.

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Lars Wiegand, Arwen Twitchett, Cornelia Schwierz, and Peter Knippertz


Around 26 May 2008 a pronounced potential vorticity (PV) streamer penetrated from the North Atlantic into the western Mediterranean Sea followed by widespread dust mobilization over the Maghreb region of northwest Africa and a subsequent northward transport into central Europe. At the same time, strong southerly flow over the Mediterranean Sea caused heavy precipitation and flooding at the windward side of the European Alps. Using continuous and feature-based error measures, as well as ensemble correlation techniques, this study investigates the forecast quality and predictability of synoptic and mesoscale aspects of this high-impact event in operational ensemble predictions from nine meteorological centers participating in The Observing System Research and Predictability Experiment (THORPEX) Interactive Grand Global Ensemble (TIGGE) project. TIGGE is a recently established program providing ensemble forecasts in a standardized format, which allows for an exciting new multimodel approach to investigating the predictability of, for example, high-impact weather and its dynamics. The main conclusions from this study are that 1) the quality of the PV streamer forecasts degrades with lead time showing a general tendency toward too weak Rossby wave; 2) when focusing on the region around the streamer, most models show root-mean-square errors of the same magnitude or larger than the ensemble spread (underdispersive behavior); 3) errors are reduced by about 50% if the comparison is made to each center’s own analysis instead of the ECMWF analysis; 4) peak wind speeds over the Sahara tend to be underpredicted, with differences in model formulation dominating over differences in the representation of the PV streamer; and 5) ensemble-mean multimodel forecasts of 4-day accumulated precipitation appear accurate enough for a successful severe-weather warning.

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