Large-scale atmospheric dynamics of the wet winter 2009–2010 and its impact on hydrology in Portugal

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Andrade, C. ; Santos, J. A. ; Pinto, Joaquim G ; Corte-Real, J. (2011)

The anomalously wet winter of 2010 had a very important impact on the Portuguese hydrological system. Owing to the detrimental effects of reduced precipitation in Portugal on the environmental and socio-economic systems, the 2010 winter was predominantly beneficial by reversing the accumulated precipitation deficits during the previous hydrological years. The recorded anomalously high precipitation amounts have contributed to an overall increase in river runoffs and dam recharges in the 4 major river basins. In synoptic terms, the winter 2010 was characterised by an anomalously strong westerly flow component over the North Atlantic that triggered high precipitation amounts. A dynamically coherent enhancement in the frequencies of mid-latitude cyclones close to Portugal, also accompanied by significant increases in the occurrence of cyclonic, south and south-westerly circulation weather types, are noteworthy. Furthermore, the prevalence of the strong negative phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) also emphasises the main dynamical features of the 2010 winter. A comparison of the hydrological and atmospheric conditions between the 2010 winter and the previous 2 anomalously wet winters (1996 and 2001) was also carried out to isolate not only their similarities, but also their contrasting conditions, highlighting the limitations of estimating winter precipitation amounts in Portugal using solely the NAO phase as a predictor.
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