The relationship between synoptic scale airflow direction and daily rainfall: a methodology applied to Devon and Cornwall, South West England

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Trans-scale relationships are established between fluctuations in the direction of the geostrophic flow over the British Isles and spatial variations in rainfall over Devon an Cornwall, South West England. The rationale for using such an approach is to provide the basis for assessing changes to the region's rainfall climatology that may result from possible future enhanced greenhouse effect forced alterations to large-scale wind flow patterns. A new method, the concentration factor (CF), that relates rainfall totals to the frequency of the flow, is applied to investigate spatial variations in rainfall totals at twelve stations in the two counties under eight wind direction groups (N, NE, E, SE, S, SW, W, NW). S and SW flow types are found to produce the highest daily rainfall totals at all locations, with the three easterly groups (NE, E, SE) yielding higher daily precipitation intensities than the maritime NW group. Inter-annual and seasonal variations in daily wind direction - rainfall (WD/R) relationships are then assessed at two contrasting sites in Cornwall (St. Mawgan, Culdrose) using 40 years of data (1957-96). In general, there is a trend over this period toward maritime airflows (S, SW, W, NW) producing higher daily rainfall totals, with the continental groups (N, NE, E, SE) yielding lower totals relative to their frequency of occurrence. The trend toward maritime airflows producing higher rainfall totals is in line with recent trends in the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). Notable seasonal variations in WD/R relationships over Cornwall are interpreted in terms of the location's exposure to the prevailing wind, sea temperature variations and the orography of the South West Peninsula.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)505-524
Number of pages20
JournalTheoretical and Applied Climatology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2001