Cross-Atlantic moisture transport
9 March 2020 00:00 UTC–10 March 23:00 UTC
Moisture transport from sub-tropical Atlantic brought precipitation to the UK and parts of western Europe on 9 and 10 March 2020.
08 December 2022
08 March 2020
By Natasa Strelec Mahovic (EUMETSAT)
After the extremely rainy February, with several storms passing over and bringing extensive rain and snow, another rainy episode hit the UK on 9-10 March 2020. The Met Office issued yellow and amber warnings for some areas, expecting high precipitation amounts.
The loop of Meteosat-10 Airmass RGB images (Figure 2) shows a cloud band stretching all the way from subtropical Atlantic towards west Europe.
Air with large amounts of Total Precipitable Water (TPW), usually referred to as an atmospheric river, was being transported towards Europe, as can be seen in the loop of the MIMIC-TPW2 product (Figure 3). This composite product is made from retrievals using AMSU-B and MSU from NOAA-18, NOAA-19, Metop-A and Metop-B. It also uses the retrieval from ATMS of Suomi-NPP.
The same atmospheric river feature is seen in ECMWF Total Column Water field shown in Figure 4, as a band of high values of total column water content.
Due to high amounts of TPW, i.e. moisture, precipitation occurred over the majority of the UK during 9 March, as seen in radar images (Figure 5).
Even after the clouds in the frontal cloud band started to dissolve, the transport of humidity in the upper troposphere could be seen as a blue stripe in Airmass RGB, due to lower brightness temperatures in WV 6.2 channel and larger WV 6.2-7.3 difference (Figure 6).
Figure 7 shows a vertical cross section across the frontal cloud band. Marked by letter A on the cross-section line, there is a blue area in the Airmass RGB which corresponds to dry layer between 700 and 500 hPa, and moist level aloft, between 500 and 300hPa. This results in larger WV 6.2-7.3 difference, as well as colder WV 6.2 temperatures, therefore, the blue-violet colour in Airmass RGB. In the same cross-section, lowering of the tropopause and a dry intrusion behind the frontal zone is found, seen as bright red in Airmass RGB — dry, stable, descending stratospheric air, also characterised by high values of isentropic potential vorticity (IPV).
High upper-tropospheric humidity, transported by this atmospheric river, reached as far as the Mediterranean and all the way to the North African coast, still detectable in WV6.2, as well as Airmass RGB. Since that area was mostly cloud free, with only high clouds, many aeroplane contrails were visible in the 24-hour Microphysics RGB (as blue stripes, especially in the area around Corsica and Sardinia), due to a large content of humidity at flight levels (Figure 8).