Tropical plumes over eastern North Africa as a source of rain in the Middle East

Shira Rubin, Baruch Ziv, Nathan Paldor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Tropical plumes (TPs) reflect tropical-extratropical interaction associated with the transport of moisture from the Tropics to extratropical latitudes. They are observed in satellite images as continuous narrow cloud bands ahead of upper-level subtropical troughs at times when the subtropical jet is highly perturbed. Rainstorms usually develop in the exit regions of TPs, so their presence over northern Africa has an impact on the precipitation regime in the southeastern Mediterranean. Based on satellite images and rainfall measurements from Israel, 10 TPs over eastern North Africa between 1988 and 2005 in which considerable rain was recorded were selected. Using the NCEP-NCAR reanalysis data, the structure and evolution of these TPs were characterized and their regional canonical features were identified. A typical TP that occurred in March 1991 is described in detail. The main canonical characteristics are as follows: the TP development is preceded by an incubation period, expressed either as a stationary upper-level trough, persisting 2-6 days, or as two consecutive TP pulses; the preferred location for TP origin is 5°-15°N, 5°W-15°E; the TP is separated from the underlying dry Saharan PBL; the subtropical trough undergoes a phase locking with the lower tropical trough; the cloudiness in the TP-induced rainstorm is mostly stratified with continuous moderate rain, originating from midlevel moisture; and the TP tends to be followed by a midlatitude cyclogenesis over the eastern Mediterranean. This analysis proposes several explanations for the efficiency of the TPs in transporting moisture over a 2000-km distance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4135-4148
Number of pages14
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2007


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