Extending medium-range predictability of extreme hydrological events in Europe

David A Lavers, Florian Pappenberger, Ervin Zsoter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


Widespread flooding occurred across northwest Europe during the winter of 2013/14, resulting in large socioeconomic damages. In the historical record, extreme hydrological events have been connected with intense water vapour transport. Here we show that water vapour transport has higher medium-range predictability compared with precipitation in the winter 2013/14 forecasts from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts. Applying the concept of potential predictability, the transport is found to extend the forecast horizon by 3 days in some European regions. Our results suggest that the breakdown in precipitation predictability is due to uncertainty in the horizontal mass convergence location, an essential mechanism for precipitation generation. Furthermore, the predictability increases with larger spatial averages. Given the strong association between precipitation and water vapour transport, especially for extreme events, we conclude that the higher transport predictability could be used as a model diagnostic to increase preparedness for extreme hydrological events.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5382
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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