Synoptic climatology of major floods in the Negev Desert, Israel

Ron Kahana, Baruch Ziv, Yehouda Enzel, Uri Dayan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study examines the extent to which the floods in the Negev Desert, an area that constitutes the southern half of Israel, are not the outcome of purely local weather conditions but are, rather, the result of distinct synoptic-scale events. This was done through compiling and analysing a hydro-climatological database of all the major floods in the Negev, and then categorizing them manually into synoptic types that cause the major floods. The type analysis is based on the US National Meteorological Center data sets with 2.5° × 2.5° resolution analysed by GrADS. Data were compiled and studied for 52 floods for the period 1965-94, with peak discharge above the magnitude of 5 year recurrence intervals (RI > 5 years) in at least one drainage basin. Distinct extreme synoptic patterns are indeed associated with 42 of the 52 floods. They were grouped into four synoptic types, two of which were associated with 37 events: (a) an active Red Sea trough, defined as a surface trough extending from East Africa through the Red Sea toward the eastern Mediterranean, accompanied by a pronounced trough at the 500 hPa level over eastern Egypt: (b) a Syrian low, defined as a well-developed Mediterranean cyclone accompanied by a pronounced upper-level trough, both located over Syria. Each of the four synoptic types has its own evolution course, and a unique seasonal and spatial distribution of its associated flooded basins. These findings imply that the major floods in the Negev can be considered as signatures of exceptional synoptic-scale evolutions, and that major floods reflect extreme climatic events. Our results indicate that it is possible to use a set of dynamic and thermodynamic variables for predicting the occurrence and location of major flash floods.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)867-882
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Climatology
Issue number7
StatePublished - 15 Jun 2002


  • Flash flood
  • Hydroclimatology
  • Major flood
  • Negev Desert
  • Synoptic climatology


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