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European dry spell length distributions, years 1951–2000

Abstract

Daily precipitation records of 267 European rain gauges are considered to obtain dry spell length (DSL) series along the second half of the twentieth century. A dry spell consists of consecutive days with daily rain amount below a given threshold, R 0. Four DSL series are obtained for R 0 values equal to 0.1, 1.0, 5.0, and 10.0 mm/day, and their empirical distributions are properly fitted to different statistical models: Pearson type III (PE3), Weibull (WEI), generalised Pareto, (GPA) and lognormal distributions. The parameters of every model are estimated by L-moments, and the goodness of fit is assessed by quantifying discrepancies between empirical and theoretical distributions in the L-skewness–kurtosis diagrams. The most common best-fitting model is PE3, especially for 0.1 and 1.0 mm/day. Nevertheless, a few stations in southern Europe are better modelled by the WEI distribution. For 5.0 and 10.0 mm/day, the spatial distribution of the best-fitting model is more heterogeneous than for the lowest thresholds. While PE3 is still the preferred model for Western Europe, some DSL series are better fitted to WEI or GPA models. Maps of DSL average and standard deviation and expected lengths for return periods of 2, 5, 10, 25, and 50 years show some common features. Whereas for thresholds of 0.1 and 1.0 mm/day, a N–S gradient is detected, especially in Mediterranean areas; for 5.0 and 10.0 mm/day, a NW–SE gradient is observed in the Iberian Peninsula and a SW–NE gradient in the Scandinavian Peninsula. Then, the vicinity to Atlantic and Arctic Oceans and the Mediterranean Sea, as well as orographic features, are more determining factors than the latitude in patterns associated with the highest R 0 thresholds. Finally, a regional frequency analysis based on a clustering algorithm is attempted for the four thresholds R 0, with the PE3 model as the parent distribution for the largest clusters.

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Acknowledgments

The authors are indebted to the ECA&D and to the Agencia Estatal de Meteorologia (Spanish Ministry of the Environment) for kindly providing the pluviometric data series.

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Correspondence to X. Lana.

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Serra, C., Martínez, M., Lana, X. et al. European dry spell length distributions, years 1951–2000. Theor Appl Climatol 114, 531–551 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00704-013-0857-5

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Keywords

  • Return Period
  • Iberian Peninsula
  • Rain Gauge
  • Generalise Extreme Value
  • Parent Distribution