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Volume 16, issue 12 | Copyright
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 16, 2835-2850, 2016
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-16-2835-2016
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 22 Dec 2016

Research article | 22 Dec 2016

Exceptional sequence of severe thunderstorms and related flash floods in May and June 2016 in Germany – Part 1: Meteorological background

David Piper1,4, Michael Kunz1,4, Florian Ehmele1,4, Susanna Mohr1,4, Bernhard Mühr1,4, Andreas Kron2,4, and James Daniell3,4 David Piper et al.
  • 1Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research (IMK-TRO), Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Karlsruhe, Germany
  • 2Institute for Water and River Basin Management (IWG), Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Karlsruhe, Germany
  • 3Geophysical Institute (GPI), Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Karlsruhe, Germany
  • 4Center for Disaster Management and Risk Reduction Technology (CEDIM), Karlsruhe, Germany

Abstract. During a 15-day episode from 26 May to 9 June 2016, Germany was affected by an exceptionally large number of severe thunderstorms. Heavy rainfall, related flash floods and creek flooding, hail, and tornadoes caused substantial losses running into billions of euros (EUR). This paper analyzes the key features of the severe thunderstorm episode using extreme value statistics, an aggregated precipitation severity index, and two different objective weather-type classification schemes. It is shown that the thunderstorm episode was caused by the interaction of high moisture content, low thermal stability, weak wind speed, and large-scale lifting by surface lows, persisting over almost 2 weeks due to atmospheric blocking.

For the long-term assessment of the recent thunderstorm episode, we draw comparisons to a 55-year period (1960–2014) regarding clusters of convective days with variable length (2–15 days) based on precipitation severity, convection-favoring weather patterns, and compound events with low stability and weak flow. It is found that clusters with more than 8 consecutive convective days are very rare. For example, a 10-day cluster with convective weather patterns prevailing during the recent thunderstorm episode has a probability of less than 1%.

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