Research Highlights | Published:

Climate science

Water vapour predicts flooding

Nature volume 515, page 315 (20 November 2014) | Download Citation

Image: Tom Pilston/Panos

Streams of concentrated water vapour in the atmosphere could be used to predict flooding in Europe more accurately than rainfall does.

A team led by David Lavers of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts in Reading, UK, looked at forecasts from last winter, when the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe saw major flooding (pictured). By incorporating information on the transport of water vapour in the atmosphere, the team found that scientists could have predicted flooding in some areas of Europe by up to three extra days.

The weather patterns associated with these atmospheric rivers do not break apart as rapidly as rainfall-related patterns do, making them more reliable flood predictors, the team says.

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