Synoptic-scale control over modern rainfall and flood patterns in the Levant drylands with implications for past climates

Moshe Armon, Elad Dente, James A. Smith, Yehouda Enzel, Efrat Morin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Rainfall in the Levant drylands is scarce but can potentially generate high-magnitude flash floods. Rainstorms are caused by distinct synoptic-scale circulation patterns: Mediterranean cyclone (MC), active Red Sea trough (ARST), and subtropical jet stream (STJ) disturbances, also termed tropical plumes (TPs). The unique spatiotemporal characteristics of rainstorms and floods for each circulation pattern were identified. Meteorological reanalyses, quantitative precipitation estimates from weather radars, hydrological data, and indicators of geomorphic changes from remote sensing imagery were used to characterize the chain of hydrometeorological processes leading to distinct flood patterns in the region. Significant differences in the hydrometeorology of these three flood-producing synoptic systems were identified: MC storms draw moisture from the Mediterranean and generate moderate rainfall in the northern part of the region. ARST and TP storms transfer large amounts of moisture from the south, which is converted to rainfall in the hyperarid southernmost parts of the Levant. ARST rainfall is local and intense, whereas TP rainfall is widespread and prolonged due to high precipitation efficiency and large-scale forcing. Thus, TP rainfall generates high-magnitude floods in the largest catchments; integration of numerous basins leads to sediment feeding from the south into the Dead Sea, exhibited in large sediment plumes. Anecdotal observations of the channel with the largest catchment in the region (Nahal HaArava) indicate that TP floods account for noticeable geomorphic changes in the channel. It provides insights into past intervals of increased flash flood frequency characterized by episodes of marked hydrogeomorphic work; such an increase is especially expected during intervals of southerly situated and southwesterly oriented STJs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1077-1096
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Hydrometeorology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


  • Extreme events
  • Flood events
  • Hydrometeorology
  • Radars/Radar observations
  • Rainfall
  • Synoptic climatology


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