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Theoretical and Applied Climatology

, Volume 49, Issue 3, pp 183–200 | Cite as

The winterstorm “Vivian” of 27 February 1990: About the meteorological development, wind forces and damage situation in the forests of Switzerland

  • M. Schüepp
  • H. H. Schiesser
  • H. Huntrieser
  • H. U. Scherrer
  • H. Schmidtke
Article

Summary

During the months January and February 1990 a series of severe cyclones were responsible for enormous wind-induced damage in Europe. The final of this series, on 27 February 1990, cyclone “Vivian” mainly affected the alpine valleys of Switzerland. 5 Millions m3 of timber were felled by the severe winds, a record number in this century. A complete damage survey of the deforested areas offers in combination with meteorological data an unique data set for a detailed case study of this extreme event.

This paper describes the general meteorological development from the synoptic scale down to the mesoscale of Switzerland and presents a general overview of the damage situation. The main results show that a rare situation of a straight frontal zone stretching over the whole Atlantic Ocean and showing a strong gradient in temperature pointed directly toward Central-Europe. Two waves formed along this elongated polar front and deepend rapidly to depressions. The first low travelled on the southernmost trajectory of the whole storm series and affected Switzerland most. North of the Alps the prefrontal warm air was blocked to the east by the arriving coldfront and had to escape into the complex terrain of the alpine valleys. There, the stormy winds were strengthened by channelizing and “Föhn” effects. The large temperature gradient between the prefrontal and the incoming air masses induced thunderstorm activity which vortices and downdrafts might have enhanced locally. As a result most of the damaged forested areas were found between 1200 and 1600 m MSL on slopes, which were mainly exposed toward the prevailing NW-winds. A comparison of extreme wind speeds for the period 1978–1992 revealed that this event's extreme high speed of 74.5 m/s, measured at a high elevated pass station in the mountains, was exceptional. For lower elevated stations the wind speeds were high but in the range of other observed extreme values. In addition to the severe wind forces the duration of sustained high wind speed was exceptionally long during February 1990.

Keywords

Wind Speed Cyclone High Wind Speed Large Temperature Gradient Thunderstorm Activity 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Schüepp
    • 1
  • H. H. Schiesser
    • 1
  • H. Huntrieser
    • 1
  • H. U. Scherrer
    • 2
  • H. Schmidtke
    • 2
  1. 1.Atmospheric Science, ETHZürichSwitzerland
  2. 2.Ingenieurbüro ScherrerNesslauSwitzerland

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