Winter daily precipitation variability over Cumbria, Northwest England

RA Neal, Ian Phillips

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Citations (Scopus)


Daily precipitation totals at 55 sites were used to investigate geographic variability in winter (DJF) rainfall over Cumbria, NW England, over an 11-year period. Winter is the wettest season (> 800 mm in the mountainous Lake District), with rainfall mechanisms closely linked to North Atlantic forcing. The Lamb weather type catalogue was used to identify rainfall distributions under different wind directions. Precipitation magnitude over Cumbria is much more sensitive to a change in wind direction than the geographic pattern in rainfall, with southwesterly (easterly) winds producing the highest (lowest) spatially averaged daily rainfall totals of 8.2 mm (0.6 mm). S-mode principal components analysis was used to identify the main patterns of precipitation variability. Three principal components (PCs) were retained as being statistically significant (cumulative explained variance for unrotated PCs = 84.3%), with a correlated PC structure (direct oblimin rotation) best describing the spatial variance in rainfall. PC 1 has a very high index of strength (variance measure = 40.9), indicating that there is one dominant rainfall pattern. PC 1 shows a gradient between wetter conditions in southwest Cumbria and over the central Lake District and drier conditions in NE Cumbria, and is usually caused by active zonal west to southwest flows. Almost of equal importance to PC 1 is PC 3 (variance measure = 39.3), which has a more uniform rainfall distribution than PC 1 and is usually caused by fronts stalling over the region. PC 2, which shows an east to west decline in rainfall totals, is much less important than PCs 1 and 3 (variance measure = 18.6). PC 2's rainfall pattern can be caused by easterly flows with high pressure over Scandinavia and low pressure over the Continent, or by strong southwesterly flows, with depressions often centred over Scotland. Finally, cluster analysis was carried out to identify precipitation regions for all days and for each wind direction. Clusters were found to be largely stable to changes in wind direction, with stations in the central Lake District often clustered together, thus highlighting the importance of orographic enhancement of rainfall in this region.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)245-262
Number of pages18
JournalTheoretical and Applied Climatology
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2011


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