Theoretical and Applied Climatology

, Volume 129, Issue 1–2, pp 149–158 | Cite as

Cutoff low systems and their relevance to large-scale extreme precipitation in the European Alps

  • N. K. Awan
  • H. FormayerEmail author
Original Paper


In this paper, we attempt to highlight the relevance of cutoff low systems (CoLs) to large-scale heavy precipitation events within the Alpine region which often lead to catastrophic flooding. The main results of this study are (1) a detailed climatology (1971–1999) of CoLs for the European region, (2) contribution of CoLs to extreme precipitation events in the European Alpine region, (3) identification of regions within the European Alps most affected by extreme precipitation caused by CoLs, and (4) identification of regions where presence of CoLs is related to extreme precipitation in the Alpine region. The findings of this paper suggest that CoLs have a significant correlation with extreme precipitation events and strongly influence the climate of the Alpine region. The total contribution of CoLs to large-scale heavy precipitation events ranges between 20 and 95 % and is most pronounced in the northern and eastern parts of the Alps. More than 80 % of the events occur in the summer season. The area around the Alps and West of Spain (over the Atlantic Ocean) is the most affected region. The location of the center of CoLs that affect the Alpine region most occur on the northern and southern sides of the Alpine ridge.


Geopotential Height Extreme Precipitation Heavy Precipitation Alpine Region Extreme Precipitation Event 
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.



The authors would like to thank the ECMWF for providing the ERA-40 re-analysis data and C. Frei and ETH Zuerich for the use of the ETH dataset. These data sets were essential for this study. In addition, we would like to thank the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, and the Vienna Scientific Computing Center in Vienna for providing the essential computational resources. We also acknowledge the EU-FP7 framework (FP7 Environment: 212250) for providing the funds necessary for this work.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Wien 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Austrian Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics – ZAMGViennaAustria
  2. 2.Institute of MeteorologyUniversity of Natural Resources and Life SciencesViennaAustria

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