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Atmospheric Research 123 (2013) 384399

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SVAT modelling in support to ood risk assessment in Bulgaria

Julia S. Stoyanova , Christo G. Georgiev
National Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Bulgaria

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: This study explores the benefit that can be drawn from incorporating the diagnosis of initial
Received 13 January 2012 soil moisture of the top vegetation/soil layer and its anomalies as parameters in support of
Received in revised form 2 July 2012 operational weather forecasting. For that purpose, a 1D vertical numerical land surface
Accepted 2 July 2012 scheme, referred to as Soil Vegetation Transfer Model (SVAT_bg) has been developed to
simulate the soilvegetationatmosphere mass and energy transfer, accounting for local soil/
Keywords: climate features. The model is run daily for estimating soil moisture content and on this basis, a
SVAT modelling biogeophysical index designating Soil Moisture Availability Index (SMAI) to vegetation land
Local biogeophysical cycle cover is derived. SMAI is introduced as a measure of the proportion between the energy and
Soil moisture availability
water balances and their anomalies at different weather/climate conditions through a 6-level
Flood-producing rainfall
threshold scheme of land surface moistening. To facilitate the use of SMAI as a diagnostic tool
Weather forecasting
for operational forecasting purposes, it is generated on a daily basis and visualised by
colour-coded maps, covering the main administrative regions of Bulgaria in combination with
a numerical part, which indicates the required flood-producing rainfall quantities (specific for
each region). In case of overmoistening conditions, the numerical part denotes the rainfall
excess above the soil saturation moisture content.
The utility of this approach is illustrated in two case studies of severe weather produced by
deep convection and a rapid cyclogenesis developed at initial dry/wet soil moisture
anomalies, respectively. The thermodynamic conditions and spacetime structure of the
rainfall are analysed by NWP output fields and satellite information.
The study contributes to a better definition of the role of vegetationsoil moistening in flood
risk forecasting within strong synoptic scale forcing regimes. The utility of the results comes
also from the recognition of soil moisture as a meteorological forcing factor, which may affect
both severity and frequency of extreme weather events.
2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction recent years (e.g. Viterbo and Beljaars, 1995; Yang, 2004). It is
recognised that the initial SM and its anomalies are important
Soil moisture (SM), terrestrial vegetation and atmospheric parameters in forecasting convective development under
flows are parts of a complex interacting system characterised certain synoptic regimes (Frye and Mote, 2010). The coupling
by the presence of many feedback mechanisms between the between soil moisture, land surface fluxes, and the initiation of
various components (Baudena et al., 2008). The role of land convection, which may lead to convective rainfall, remains an
surface processes in formation of atmospheric phenomena and open research problem and has attracted much recent inquiry
their extremes on a synoptic and dynamic basis have been (Clark and Arritt, 1995; Siqueira et al., 2009). The reason this
increasingly realised and reflected in the literature during problem remains open comes from the fact that the coupling
between SM and convective rainfall involves a large number
of interacting processes occurring within the soilplant
Corresponding author at: National Institute of Meteorology and
Hydrology, Tsarigradsko chaussee 66, 1784 Sofia, Bulgaria. Tel.: +359 2
atmosphere system that vary over a wide range of space and
462 46 03; fax: +359 2 988 03 80. time scales. The quantitative prediction of convective precipi-
E-mail address: (J.S. Stoyanova). tation over complex terrain under weak synoptic control is still

0169-8095/$ see front matter 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
J.S. Stoyanova, C.G. Georgiev / Atmospheric Research 123 (2013) 384399 385

inadequate, one of the potential uncertainties being the moisture products in addition to NWP information in support
influence of soil conditions, such as soil moisture and/or soil to operational flood risk diagnoses and forecasts is consid-
texture, and their relative importance in different regions ered in Section 4.
(Hauck et al., 2011).
From operational perspective, besides the forecast of space 2. SoilVegetationAtmosphere Transfer model and soil
time structure of the rainfall, the initial soil water content is an moisture products
important parameter within flash-flood prediction models.
Currently there is an increased potential for ground-based SM The land surface and the atmosphere interact over a wide
measurements but the availability of such data is still not range of space and time scales to influence the global climate
sufficient across time- and spatial-scales. SM data can also be system. The recognition for the importance of better under-
inferred by using remote-sensing-based approaches. However, standing biophysical mechanisms of terrestrial land surface-
these approaches usually have a sensing depth of only a few atmosphere interactions made a rapid progress in LSPs
centimeters, whereas the SM data of greatest relevance to modeling over the past 20 years (Rowntree, 1983; Mahfouf
many applications span a much larger depth. In addition, and Noilhan, 1991; Chen and Avissar, 1994a,b).
remotely sensed SM products exhibit varying accuracy Budyko (1956) put forward a simple so-called Bucket
depending on the respective retrieval algorithms, the resulting scheme in order to obtain the amount of evaporation and
SM product, the calibration/validation procedure, and the runoff assuming the surface to act as a single layer. Manabe
region where the retrieval algorithm was validated. The scaling (1969) first adapted this scheme to evaluate hydrological
properties of SM are usually highly variable in time, which budget between the land surface and atmosphere in a Global
implies that remotely sensed SM fields obtained on specific Circulation Model (GCM). To avoid some shortcomings of the
spatio-temporal scales cannot be easily compared to surface earliest land surface models (Carson, 1981), the impact of
measurements on other scales (Hauck et al., 2011). vegetation cover on the LSPs was taken into account in the
Information about SM content from operational numerical GCMs through the simple SVAT schemes. The first generation
weather prediction (NWP) models could be used for weather of SVATs evolved from the simplest bucket schemes
forecasting. However, in most operational atmospheric models focused only on the soil water availability (Manabe, 1969),
the simulated prognostic variable soil moisture does not have through the schemes of Deardorff (1978), followed by the
an unambiguous meaning (Koster et al., 2009). It is a strongly biosphere-atmosphere transfer scheme (BATS) of Dickinson
model-specific quantity with a dynamic range defined by the et al. (1986) and the simple biosphere (SiB) model of Sellers
specific model formulation and the soil parameters such as et al. (1986). As a result of the increased interest in
porosity, hydraulic conductivity, wilting point, and layer refinement of land surface parametrisation in NWP/GCMs
depth, which are not known at the NWP model spatial and and the numerical description of landatmosphere interac-
temporal scales. tions, a large number of advanced LSMs (e.g. Dickinson et al.,
Another way to account for initial SM at a site scale is by 1993; Sellers et al., 1996a, 1996b; Slater et al., 2001; Balsamo
running a SoilVegetationAtmosphere Transfer (SVAT) et al., 2009) have been developed. These LSMs are generally
model. The aim of this paper is to stress the utility of a daily evaluated or calibrated in stand-alone mode prior to their
vegetated land surface Soil Moisture Availability (SMA) implementation (e.g. Henderson-Sellers, 1993).
diagnosis for operational weather forecasting of extreme A simple meteorological SVAT model introduced as
events, and in particular, for flash-flood conditions. The SMA SVAT_bg has been developed to account for regional LSPs
analyses are performed with a daily SVAT model run which over Bulgaria. This hydro-thermodynamic soil vegetation
accounts for Land Surface Processes (LSPs) and the action of model was formally introduced for operational use at NIMH
specific vegetation cover/soil physics/climate. The proposed of Bulgaria under Resolution No 171 from 13/07/2010.
diagnostic approach is applied in combination with a NWP
forecast to assess soil moistening and flash-flood risk in the 2.1. SVAT model description
cases of a strong synoptic scale forcing.
A short overview of Land Surface Models (LSMs) for SVAT_bg model incorporates the main physical mecha-
simulation of biogeophysical land surface-atmosphere in- nisms of soilvegetationatmosphere interface through a
teractions is presented in Section 2. The development of a numerical (1D vertical) geo-referenced meteorological scheme.
meteorological model (SVAT_bg) used for numerical assess- This LSM exploits the concept of one layer vegetated land
ment of volumetric SM content at a site-scale at the National surface and two levels of moisture availability in the root zone
Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology (NIMH) of Bulgaria is depth (Stoyanova and Georgiev, 2007, 2011) that is consistent
presented. with the approach of Budyko (1956) and Deardorff (1978). Land
Section 3 focuses on of the role of land surface moistening surface diagnostic parameters are derived as output products
in influencing tropospheric thermodynamic conditions and and adjusted for operational use. These are radiation properties
subsequent convection development. Based on a threshold of the vegetation/soil system characterised by the energy balance
scheme indicating the available SM to the vegetation cover at and land surface temperature (not considered in this paper)
different soil/climate environment, a Soil Moisture Availabil- and simulated land cover water balance components (soil
ity Index (SMAI) is introduced. Its application in combination moisture/evapotranspiration).
with flood-producing rainfall quantities for operational The physics of the SVAT_bg model is based on the coupling
analysis of SM status and risk of overmoistening or flood of vegetated land surface energy balance at a thermodynamic
is considered. Using two case studies of severe storms equilibrium surface temperature with a simple water balance
over Bulgaria as examples, the usefulness of SVAT_bg soil model over a given time step at non-limited and restricted
386 J.S. Stoyanova, C.G. Georgiev / Atmospheric Research 123 (2013) 384399

evapotranspiration regimes. Calculation of the individual conduction heat SH entering the soil. H and LE are defined as
terms requires a number of simplifying assumptions because positive when directed from canopy/soil to atmosphere, and SH
the physical processes that are associated with the different from surface to deep soil:
energy fluxes are very complicated and cannot be incorpo-
rated into LSM using a first principles approach. The SVAT Rn LE0 H SH 4
main parameterisations include: (1) the canopy temperature
according to corresponding energy balance, including the air
heat and moisture fluxes, (2) vegetation water budget. Soil The soil heat flux SH under a closed vegetated canopy
moisture (on surface and root zone) and evaporation are (with low vegetation) is expressed in terms of the canopy net
derived as outputs of the model for the purposes of this study. radiation Rn by established empirical relationship between
them, SH = 0.1Rn (e.g. Choudhury et al., 1987). Assuming that
2.1.1. Energy balance the leaves in a stratum are forming a horizontal canopy
Following the first law of thermodynamics, net radiation surface and that they respond identically to changes of
at the land surface as the only energy input in nonadvective environment, the basic equation for the energy budget of a
situations is a result of the incoming and outgoing solar horizontal single leaf can be written as:
radiation. The predominantly one-dimensional energy trans-
fer processes at the wet vegetation surface that construct the 4
1 Rs RL T l LEH SH 0 5
net radiation energy flow Rn (positive downwards) can be
written as:

  The vegetation (canopy leaf) temperature Tl is incorpo-

4 rated in Eq. (5), where the last two terms are given by the
Rn 1 Rs RL T l 1
mass transfer equations for H and LE, i.e.:

where: Rs is incoming short-wave radiation downwards the

H cp DT 6
canopy; is the short-wave surface albedo; is the surface
emissivity; RL is incoming long-wave radiation; Tl is the land
surface temperature (both soil and vegetation) and the LE LDq 7
Stefan Boltzmann constant, being related to the long-wave
radiation emitted by the surface RL.
Rn components as for the incoming total short-wave where is the air density at normal pressure, cp the specific
radiation flux Rs and downward long-wave RL radiative heat capacity of air at constant pressure, L the latent heat of
flows at a horizontal canopy surface with an open horizon are vapourisation, D is a constant of proportionality with the
parametrised by semi empirical relationship according to units of velocity or diffusivity per unit height (Sellers, 1964).
Berlyand (1961) (Eqs. (2) and (3), respectively). Cloud-free It is defined as an integral turbulent diffusivity coefficient D
solar insolation (Q + q)0 is calculated following Kimball within a layer z (between the evaporating leaf surface and a
(1973) and Djolov et al. (1970). reference level in the atmosphere) by Budyko (1956). The
procedure is operationalised by using finite differences of
Rs Q q0 10:38nn 1 2 temperature T and specific humidity q data over the same
  height z interval, after assuming equal transfer coefficients
RL F 0 10:69n for sensible (Eq. (6)) and latent heat (Eq. (7)) fluxes for a
h pi 
4 2 wide range of atmospheric stability (Dyer, 1967; Swinbank
T 0:390:58 e 10:69n 3
and Dyer, 1967). The temperature of the leaf surface is
incorporated through T, which is the difference between
where Fo is the cloudless long wave net radiation, T denotes the leaf Tl and air Ta temperatures. q is the difference
absolute air temperature, e is the water vapour pressure of the between the specific humidity of saturated water vapour at
air, n is cloudiness, and are introduced in Eq. (1). the evaporating canopy surface (qs) and the specific humidity
The radiant energy Rn, absorbed by the vegetationsoil of the air (q).
system Eq. (1) is partitioned amongst landatmosphere The leaf temperature is involved in calculating canopy net
energetic fluxes, photosynthesis Ph as well as heat storage in radiation, latent and sensible heat. The relation of each of
the soil SH, trees and air Qh. Ph is generally estimated to be less these quantities to leaf temperature varies and Eq. (5) cannot
than a few percent of the surface energy and thus is negligible. be solved algebraically for Tl. Solving Eq. (5) involves solving
On the contrary, heat storage Qh in the plant community can be a set of simultaneous equations expressing reciprocal re-
a substantial part of the energy balance, however, quantitative lations. For example, Tl is affected by the rate of evapotrans-
information on it in literature is rare and difficult to obtain piration E, and E is affected by Tl (see Section 2.1.3). Because
(Wilson et al., 2002). We are assuming only non-divergent of its interdependence and complexity, Eqs. (5)(12) must be
vertical fluxes over the closed canopy and homogeneous soil solved iteratively, using as driving variables the environment
thermo-physical properties along the soil profile. Neglecting above the plant canopy, soil characteristics and leaves
the secondary energy sources/sinks, the energy balance radiative properties. For this purpose, the approach accepted
equation for the active surface of a moist fully vegetated for the closure of energy balance equation is by an iteratively
canopy is a statement of how net radiation is balanced between adjusting the value of the integral turbulent diffusivity
sensible H and latent LEo heat leaving the surface, and soil coefficient D.
J.S. Stoyanova, C.G. Georgiev / Atmospheric Research 123 (2013) 384399 387

2.1.2. Water balance E 0W PWP 12

The changes in soil moisture over a given time step t are
computed by a simple water balance model, Eq. (8):

dW 2.2. Model operation

PE 8
In this study, SVAT_bg model is parameterised for a
where: W is the volumetric soil moisture content, P is rainfall, grassland cover using the mean vegetation albedo equal to
E is evapotranspiration. It is assumed no surface runoff under 0.24. Calculations are started after the spring air temperature
the closed canopy and negligible drainage to groundwater transition above the 5 C threshold and are not referred for
over dry periods. the frozen season and negative air temperatures. The
calculated SMA refers to the averaged soil moisture in the
2.1.3. Coupling of energy and water balance top 50 cm soil layer, assuming that the bulk of the soil
The SVAT_bg scheme has been developed on the basis of moisture changes in summer occur in the first 50-cm depth
two stages of coupling between the energy and water flows of soil. For assessment of whole water capacity in the case of
trough the vegetationsoil system. deep soils, a standard depth of 1 m is also considered in the
During the first stage, at non-limiting SM conditions, the SMA estimates.
evaporation from the plant community is not limited and it For SM accounting the SVAT_bg model is run daily with
occurs at a potential level Eo when the meteorological meteorological information from 36 synoptic stations,
variables are the only determinants. In our LSM, the potential which uniformly cover the country. In our estimations,
evapotranspiration concept of Sellers (1964) applied for arid physical relationships between SM, local weather/climate,
regions, which is a slight modification of that presented by site characteristics and agricultural soils are used. Different
Budyko (1956) has been accepted, assuming as driving force site-specific soil types are characterised by the vertical
the vapour pressure gradient between evaporating surface gradients of soil hydro-physical properties, which are
and overlying air. Eo parametrisation is given by a bulk available for each 10 cm along the root zone (starting from
aerodynamic relation: 5, 10, 20 up to 200 cm).
The model is initialised at a climatic forcing assuming
Eo Dqs q 9 well-watered soil conditions, and that on average at each site,
the moisture content was at or above field capacity for 90 % of
the period between 1 January and 1 March. Gravimetric
where , q, qs and D are defined in Eqs. (6)(7).
measurements at NIMH agro network for this period confirm
During the second stage, at limited SM conditions, the
that during winter the land in our region is often saturated
actual evaporation E from the plant community occurs below
with water and have surface drainage.
its potential level. In modelling of E, the theory given by
Revut (1964), adapted by Rode (1969) and widely accepted
3. Soil moisture products based on SVAT model output in
in description of SM availability to the vegetation cover in
support to operational forecast of ood risk
GCM simulations (e.g. Robock et al., 1995) is applied.
Accordingly, three qualitative degrees of soil moistening are
Studies of the potential impact of the initial SM conditions on
used and introduced in the SVAT_bg by the hydrological
the convective development and the resulting rainfall have
properties of a specific soil type (Rode, 1969). The two are
shown a range of influences. A reduced SM tends to facilitate
the maximum moisture content of capillaries in equilibrium
convection initiation, since the convective temperature (neces-
with the force of gravity that is the field moisture capacity
sary to release the convective available potential energy (CAPE)
(FMC) and the permanent wilting point (PWP), the minimal
by buoyancy) was reached more easily for drier soil surfaces
of soil moisture that plant requires not to wilt. As a third
(Hauck et al., 2011). As a further potential influence of SM, the
qualitative degree, the level of critical soil moisture content,
timing of convection initiation at the surface is dependent on
called a capillary tearing moisture (CTM) is introduced. SMA
how fast the surface temperature can reach the convective
sharply drops below this moisture level as a result of a
temperature, both being dependent on the near-surface SM.
salutatory alteration in soil moisture mobility and instead of
Sensitivity experiments (Hauck et al., 2011) showed that wet soil
its usual fluid state, the water movement to the evaporative
conditions in a numerical model lead to moister and cooler
soil surface becomes via water vapour. In response, E values
boundary layers as well as lowered lifting condensation levels
decrease linearly and in parallel with the decrease of
and levels of free convection, facilitating the development of
available SM until its full depletion at the PWP level.
deep convection. In particular, the interplay between CAPE,
Based on the above considerations, E is derived by the
which may depend strongly on surface fluxes, and convective
coupled solution of heat (Eq. (5)) and moisture (Eq. (8))
inhibition (CIN), being more dependent on the processes aloft,
budgeting equations, applied for the moist surface of vegetated
plays a major role in the impact of SM in complex terrain.
canopy following the parameterisation scheme defined by
However, for most mid-tropospheric forcing cases of convection,
Budyko (1956), as follows:
the SM plays no (or only a very minor) role, because the
humidity in the boundary layer (which strongly influences the
  above-mentioned variables) is advected from upstream and
W does not depend on the soil characteristics. Studies on the
E E0 PWP < W < CTM 11
CTM influence of SM on deep convection over an arid environment in
388 J.S. Stoyanova, C.G. Georgiev / Atmospheric Research 123 (2013) 384399

Mongolia based on volumetric SM satellite data and the realistic representation of landsurface status over vareous
convective activity estimated using C-band radar show that vegetation covers.
deep convection tended to develop over an area with positive As a measure of the land surface moisture status, a Soil
anomalies of SM under dry SM conditions (Iwasky and Fujii Moisture Availability Index has been developed based on SVAT
(2011). Deep convection could occur even for relatively low model output data for SM (Stoyanova, 2010; Stoyanova and
instability on dry soil days, whereas high instability was Georgiev, 2011). This Index is obtained through a 6-level
necessary for its occurrence on the moist soil days. threshold scheme to account for moistening conditions of:
As discussed in Section 1, quantification of the SM impact Drought, Drought risk, Dry, Optimum, Wet, Soaking wet
on operational NWP modelling of convective precipitation is in a specific layer along the root zone profile. For definition of
still inadequate, one of the potential uncertainties being the these 6-levels of SMA, specific thresholds of the available for
influence of soil conditions, such as SM and/or soil texture, vegetation SM (described by Eqs. (10)(12)) are introduced. In
and their relative importance in different regions. The this way, based on the energy and water balance coupling
approach adopted in our framework is evaluation of soil approach, we simulate the water status of vegetation cover
moisture availability by daily run of our simple LSM and (evapotranspiration and the level of productive soil moisture),
derived on this basis SM product, reflecting the regional soil which being the main determinant of plant systems develop-
hydro-physics at specific vegetation cover. The derived ment, at the same time might serve as information source for
products are used operationally as additional to the NWP warnings for environmental constrains.
information for qualitative analyses/forecasts of over moist- Wet denotes that SM exceeds the specific FMC for a
ening and risk of flood by heavy precipitations during the no specific layer. In our SVAT model, two-layer parameterisation
winter season, i.e. excluding a contribution of melt water as a of the vegetationsoil system hydrology is applied, assuming
positive factor for producing flash flood. that rainfall recharges the first layer and when this layer
reaches capacity, water is transferred to the second layer.
3.1. Threshold scheme of SMA and its information content When the precipitation recharges the whole 1-meter of the
root zone and SM exceeds its FMC value for all considered
Water availability to plants is an important variable for soil layers, we indicate this moistening capacity as Soaking
evaluating vegetation transpiration, it is a key factor in models wet.
of ecosystem and carbon cycle processes (e.g. Friend and Kiang, The Optimum status of SM is defined by Eq. (10). The
2005), energy and water budgets of crop canopies, as well as a status of initial SM deficit when AET is restricted according to
basic parameter in mesoscale atmospheric circulation models Eq. (11) is defined as Dry. The levels of Drought risk and
(Noilhan and Calvet, 1995) and forecasting systems (e.g. Drought denote high SM deficit and prevented AET (Eq. (12))
Fennessey and Shukla, 1999; Koster et al., 2004). For that being distinguished depending on the duration of the period
reason there is a wide range of potential applications of without rain. The moistening status is classified as Drought
model-derived soil moisture data although large differences when SM drops at or below PWP for five or more consecutive
are seen in the soil moisture products generated by different days. The aspects of drought conditions are out of the scope of
land surface models, even when the models are driven with this study.
precisely the same meteorological forcing (Koster et al., 2009).
It is emphasised that the true information content, and thus 3.2. Mapping of SMAI and ood-producing rainfall
value, of a model soil moisture product lies not in its absolute
magnitudes but in its time variations. To enable a proper To facilitate the use of SMAI as a diagnostic tool for
application of the simulated soil moisture product in our operational forecasting purposes, the SMAI is generated on a
framework, instead of using directly SM values, the evolution of daily basis and visualised by colour-coded maps covering the
the moisture status of the soilvegetationatmosphere system main administrative regions of Bulgaria for all soil depths
is considered. considered: 5, 20, 50 and 100 cm. Fig. 1 shows an example of
Different authors have used soil moisture at different soil SMAI mapping.
depths as a reference level for estimated soil moisture deficit As a predicting variable in estimating the magnitude and
(SMD). Lockwood et al. (1989) considered 50 cm for shallow frequency of floods at ungauged sites, an index called rainfall
soils where the measurements reach rock at 80 cm. Gardner excess has been used in the British Institute of Hydrology's
and Field (1983) used a standard depth of 1 m for deeper flood studies based on soil moisture deficit data computed by
lowland soils. To cover different operational applications in our the Meteorological Office (Beran and Sutcliffe, 1973). In current
framework, SM calculations are performed in four depths of the work, we focus on using a SMAI threshold scheme in the
root zone (5, 20, 50, 100 cm). The moisture status of each of context of analyses and forecast of flood risk in situations of
these layers is characterised by using a set of levels of soil potential for heavy precipitations. For that purpose, a quantity
moisture availability, depending on the soil physics, degree of flood producing rainfall is introduced, defined as the quantity
moisture access to plants and accumulated precipitation during of rain needed to increase the moistening in the 50 cm soil depth
the previous 24 hrs. Various LSMs employ different soil column so that the SM in this layer to reach the FMC. The quantities of
characteristics resulting in slightly varying definitions for SM. It flood producing rainfall are calculated daily from the SVAT_bg
was therefore necessary to convert simulated SM to an model output, which is run using meteorological data from
equivalent quantity (plant-available soil moisture in the top synoptic stations in the administrative regional units of Bulgaria
1-meter layer) to enable intercomparisons. The operational for the previous 24 hrs. Accordingly, the SMAI colour map for the
framework was specifically designed to minimise the need for 50 cm soil depth (Fig. 1, bottom left map) is visualised in
ancillary meteorological data while maintaining a physically combination with a numerical part, which indicates the required
J.S. Stoyanova, C.G. Georgiev / Atmospheric Research 123 (2013) 384399 389

Fig. 1. Example of soil moistening conditions at different soil depths (5, 20, 50, 100 cm) and grass/Lucerne land cover for the administrative regions of Bulgaria,
accounted by Soil Moisture Availability Index (SMAI). Based on the NIMH Bulgaria SVAT_bg model, colour coded maps are daily operationally generated.
Flood-producing rain quantities (mm) shown on the map for 50 cm soil depth (bottom left map).

flood-producing rainfall quantity (a specific value for each 4.1. Case 1: low risk of ood. Deep convection related to fast
region). In case of overmoistening conditions, the numerical moving upper-level PV anomaly and dry low-level tropospheric
part denotes the rainfall excess above the soil saturation environment
moisture content (negative values), as it is in the region coloured
in dark blue in Fig. 1, 50 cm soil depth. A convective storm event over the north-western part of
Bulgaria on 20 July 2011, which produced strong damaging
wind and large hail is studied here.
4. Case studies The water vapour (WV) 6.2 m channel imagery from
Meteosat Second Generation (MSG) can be used for upper-
This section provides observational description of two level diagnosis of the environment of convective storms
cases developed at strong large-scale forcing and dry/wet (Santurette and Georgiev, 2005). The WV image for 20 July
soil moisture anomalies. The study is based on operational 2011 1400 UTC is shown in Fig. 2a. It is overlaid by the 3 hrs
data, available in the forecasting environment of NIMH of ARPEGE NWP model forecast of the heights of the constant
Bulgaria (thermodynamical fields, NWP forecasts, satellite surface of potential vorticity (PV) equal to 1.5 PV-units that
images and products, upper-air soundings as well as represents the dynamical tropopause (Santurette and Georgiev,
SVAT-model derived SM and SMAI charts). The presented 2005). The presence of the PV anomaly (folding of the dynamical
materials illustrate the methodology described in Section 3 tropopause down to 600 dam) is confirmed by the distinct dry
that is used for assessing how the synoptic scale pattern zone in the WV image (at the black arrow). In the leading part of
interacts with the soil moisture pattern to provoke the the PV anomaly the upper-level flow is divergent related to
occurrence of severe weather events. highly diffluent contours of the dynamical tropopause (at heights
390 J.S. Stoyanova, C.G. Georgiev / Atmospheric Research 123 (2013) 384399

about 1000 dam) near the time of maximum development of the

severe storm.
To better analyse the upper tropospheric divergence we
use the satellite divergence (DIV) product, inferred opera-
tionally from 6.2 m channel data at Meteosat Product
Extraction Facilities (MPEF) of EUMETSAT, the European
Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites,
shown in Fig. 2b. Following Georgiev and Santurette (2010),
the divergent values are visualised in bluish shades and a
light green colour, showing little divergence in the range
[0 to + 20 10 6 s 1]. The convergence in the range
[ 20 10 6 s 1 to 0] is not coloured and the convergence
values lower than 20 10 6 s 1 are visualised in reddish
colours. In Fig. 2b the 300 hPa wind vectors and wind speed
(brown contours only > 30 kt) are superimposed onto the
satellite DIV product. The PV anomaly seen in Fig. 2a is
moving fast with the jet (along the maximum wind axis at
300 hPa, at the black arrow in Fig. 2b). The convective
evolution occurs forward to the tropopause folding, near the
left exit of the jet. The most deep convective cells are shown
in Fig. 2b, those with cloud top brightness temperature (BT)
b 50 C as derived from the Infrared (IR) 10.8 m MSG
channel are coloured in yellow and those of BT b 60 C in
red. The divergent flow at the tropopause near the jet (at the
black arrow in Fig. 2b) diagnosed by satellite data is a sign of
vertical motions, which enhance the convective development
in a deep layer aloft (see Hofer et al., 2011; Georgiev, 2012).
The IR image (Fig 2c) shows a distinct cold-ring (at the
position of the magenta arrow) overshooting characteristic
feature, which is considered as an indicator of severe weather
(Setvk et al, 2010; Bedka, 2011). Such cold-ring structures
are initiated by strong upper-tropospheric updraft, which
produces a vertically extensive storm with cloud tops
penetrating high above the tropopause. Therefore, the
convective evolution occurs at a strong upper-level forcing
and there is a clear evidence for a high probability of severe
weather over the north-western part of Bulgaria.
The low level moisture conditions are seen in Fig. 3,
showing vertical profiles derived by ARPEGE model output
valid for 15 UTC near the area of severe convection (Fig. 3a),
as well as by the upper-air sounding at Sofia release point
(about 150 km to the southwest, at the position of the yellow
arrow in Fig. 2c) for 1200 UTC (Fig. 3b). The black line gives
the air temperature profile, while the blue curve represents
the vertical distribution of wet-bulb potential temperature.
Both vertical profiles show that the convective process has
developed in an environment of very low humidity in the
lower troposphere (dew point depression: 20 C at 900 hPa,
13 C at 850 hPa, 4 C at 700 hPa).

Fig. 2. Upper-level diagnosis on 20 July 2011 (a) MSG WV image at 1400 UTC
superimposed onto 3 h ARPEGE NWP model forecast of heights of constant
PV surface 1.5 PV-units valid for 1500 UTC and (b) MPEF DIV product (blue/
green divergent, red/white convergent) at 1445 UTC, superimposed onto the
corresponding IR 10.8 m channel image (only cloud top BT b 40 C) and
3 h ARPEGE forecast of 1.5 PVU surface heights and 300 hPa wind (only > 30
kt), valid for 1500 UTC. (c) MSG enhanced IR 10.8 m image (coloured only
BT b 40 C) on 20 July 2011 1330 UTC.
J.S. Stoyanova, C.G. Georgiev / Atmospheric Research 123 (2013) 384399 391

The analysis of soil moisture status performed by SMAI

defined in Section 3.2 (Fig. 4a) shows that these extremely
dry low-level conditions were established after the SM has
been reduced to the wilting point (drought risk, orange/red
colour) over the north-western part of Bulgaria (within the
dashed ellipse zone). Examining such a dry case, Beljaars
et al. (1996) suggest that the thermodynamic stability was
greatly reduced by the presence of dryer soil, supported by a
strong temperature inversion at the top of the boundary layer
that formed and prohibited the development of deep
convection. The tropospheric stability on 20 July 2011
assessed from the Sofia upper-air sounding at 1200 UTC
(Fig. 3b) is indicative for instability, based on vertical
temperature lapse rate (850 to 500 hPa), moisture content
of the lower atmosphere, and the vertical extent of the moist
layer, in terms of K-Index and Total totals Index: KI = 34.7 C,
TT = 57.0 C. The wind hodograph (Fig. 3c) shows warm
advection from 850 to 600 hPa (right wind shear in this
tropospheric layer). At the position of the magenta arrow in
Fig. 2c, strong instability (KI = 40.3 C, TT = 54.9 C, CAPE =
2190 J/kg) from the vertical profile in Fig. 3a is derived by
ARPEGE NWP model 3 hrs forecast valid for 1500 UTC.
For diagnosing the convective environment, instability
parameters derived by using satellite data are also useful
(Kenig and de Coning, 2009; Conte et al., 2011). The
tropospheric instability can be estimated by considering the
satellite MPEF Global Instability Indexes (GII) product for the
Lifted Index (LI). It is generated by EUMETSAT every 15 min
and represents the temperature difference between an air
parcel lifted adiabatically at 500 hPa and the temperature of
the environment at this level. The temperature of the air,
which is lifted from the portion of the planetary boundary
layer that lies below the morning inversion is used in the
definition of the Lifted Index. For calculation the MPEF LI, this
is the surface temperature as derived by the IR 10.8 m
channel brightness temperature. It might be concluded that
the Lifted Index is strongly dependent on the soil moisture,
the drier soils being able to favour instability in terms of the
LI. Fig. 4b shows highly negative values of MPEF LI in the late
morning on 20 July 2011 over the Western Bulgaria, which
was the dryer part of the country (13 hrs earlier) according
to the SMA diagnosis in Fig. 4a. Consistent with the
considerations in Section 3, it seems that the convective
temperature was reached more easily for drier soil surfaces in
the western part of Bulgaria (orange/red colour in Fig. 4a; the
optimum SMA (green colour) among the districts of western
part of Bulgaria is related mostly to mountain areas). In this
case, the low-level thermal forcing plays an important role
and the first convective clouds at western part of Bulgaria
started to develop around 15 h local time.

Fig. 3. Vertical profiles near the severe convective event on 20 July 2011
derived by (a) ARPEGE NWP model output valid for 1500 UTC and
(b) upper-air sounding data at Sofia release point (about 150 km to the
southwest) for 1200 UTC. The black (right) line gives the air temperature
profile, while the blue (left) curve represents the vertical distribution of
wet-bulb potential temperature. (c) Wind hodograph from the Sofia upper-air
sounding data for 1200 UTC.
392 J.S. Stoyanova, C.G. Georgiev / Atmospheric Research 123 (2013) 384399

The forecast for moderate quantities of precipitation suggests

low flood risk because of the following considerations:
The analyses of soil moistening in the north-western part of
Bulgaria (Fig. 4a) show predominantly limited soil moist-
ening (yellow to red colours) and optimal (green colour, but
around 50 mm below overmoistening conditions).
The flood-producing quantities indicated at each district on
Fig. 4a show that according to the SVAT model simulations,
rain of 55 to 79 mm is needed to cause overmoistening and
flood risk in north-western part of Bulgaria.
Based on the NWP guidance and the SVAT model analysis
of SMAI, the operational forecast issued at NIMH of Bulgaria
did not indicate probability for heavy rain and floods.
Orange Code of MeteoAlarm for thunderstorms with
showers and hail was predicted. In reality, the maximum
precipitation measured among the synoptic stations in NW
Bulgaria was 41 mm. Showers (more than 40 mm for
30 min) were reported but in these dry soil conditions
(seen in Fig. 4a), floods were not able to occur. The severity of
this case was due to damaging wind (maximum wind speed
24 m/s with gusts up to 42 m/s) and large hail (about 5 cm in
diameter) because of the strong troposphere dynamics,
associated with a strong jet and a fast moving PV anomaly
that controlled the convective development.

4.2. Case 2: high risk of ood. Cyclogenesis in meridional

blocking regime and wet land surface conditions

A case on 17 October 2011 over the eastern part of

Bulgaria is shown here to illustrate how the forecaster can
add value to numerical guidance using information from
SVAT-model-derived SMAI charts to forecast the risk of flood.
For upper-level diagnosis the 300 hPa isobaric surface
analyses of geopotential and wind (only > 60 knots) from
ARPEGE NWP model are presented on Fig. 5. A typical flow
pattern of strong meridional blocking is present over Eastern
Europe where the air moves north and south having large
amplitude with a deep trough and peaked ridges on its two
sides (Fig. 5a). As seen in Fig. 5b, the related jet stream
exhibits a highly amplified trough feature, seen as a large
Fig. 4. (a) Colour coded maps of Soil Moisture Availability Index/SMAI/over
Bulgaria and corresponding flood-producing rain quantities (mm) for 1800 amplitude moisture boundary in the satellite WV image.
UTC on (a) 19 July 2011. (b) MPEFGII Lifted Index, operationally derived ARPEGE model analysis of the 1.5 PV-units surface heights
from MSG data for 0715 UTC on 20 July 2011. The dashed ellipses on (a) in and wet-bulb potential temperature (w) at 850 hPa are
black and (b) in white indicate the area with high probability of strong
superimposed onto the MSG water vapour image in Fig. 6.
convective development.
The polar intrusion of strong PV has penetrated deeply south
to the Eastern Mediterranean marked by low heights of the
dynamical tropopause (brown contours in Fig. 6a). The area
of PV advection is associated with an intrusion of mid- and
upper-tropospheric dry air, seen as a characteristic dark
feature in the WV image (at the position of the black arrow)
As mentioned in Peice et al. (2003), instability indices as over the Black Sea coast in the Eastern part of Bulgaria. The
well as other convective precursors such as CAPE or wind dry intrusion is embedded through the jet into the circulation
shear are useful, though not sufficient tools for forecasting of the upper-level low seen in Fig. 5a that tends to be blocked
convective phenomena. In the present case the analysis over the southeastern Balkans. A distinct baroclinic zone
based on instability parameters (derived by satellite and downstream is depicted by the strong gradient zone of w at
NWP output data) suggests probability for convective storm 850 hPa in Fig. 6b (at the black arrows).
development. The strong increase of wind speed aloft and Rapid cyclogenesis occurred over the western coast of
strong wind shear from the surface to 600 hPa seen in Fig. 3b Black Sea at the position of the black arrow in Fig. 6a. From
and c are conditions favourable for wind gust and hail (rather the satellite IR image in Fig. 7a (superimposed onto NWP
than heavy precipitations) related to the convective storm. analysis of wind at 925 hPa and MSLP, brown, each 2 hPa), it
J.S. Stoyanova, C.G. Georgiev / Atmospheric Research 123 (2013) 384399 393

Fig. 6. Meridional blocking circulation over Eastern Europe on 17 October

1800 UTC seen in the MSG WV image superimposed onto ARPEGE NWP
Fig. 5. Meridional blocking circulation over Eastern Europe on 17 October model analysis of (a) heights of constant PV surface 1.5 PV-units and
1800 UTC seen in the ARPEGE NWP model analysis of 300 hPa (a) heights (b) wet-bulb potential temperature at 850 hPa.
and (b) wind (only > 60 knots) superimposed onto the corresponding MSG
water vapour image.

is seen that this cyclogenesis event appears to be of the

instant occlusion type as described by Evans et al. (1994). In
this conceptual model (see also Brennan and Lackmann, related to a strong meridional blocking (seen in Fig. 6), which
2005), cyclogenesis occurs in association with a distinct produces the more frequent deceleration and deformation of
cold-air cloud cluster downstream of an upper-trough axis, frontal cloud bands necessary for instant occlusion to
within a jet entrance region on the cold side of a deep develop.
tropospheric baroclinic zone. Such a baroclinic zone is seen It seems that low-level thermal advection contributes to
on the IR image as a baroclinic cloud boundary (at the black cyclogenesis by inducing sea level pressure falls, amplifying
arrows in Fig. 7a) about 200 km to the east of the cyclone the upper-level wave and creating a positive feedback as the
center. As usual (Carleton, 1981), this instant occlusion is surface cyclone strengthens. In an adiabatic atmosphere, such
394 J.S. Stoyanova, C.G. Georgiev / Atmospheric Research 123 (2013) 384399

Fig. 7. (a) MSG IR image for 17 October 2011 1800 UTC superimposed onto ARPEGE analysis of wind at 925 hPa and MSLP (brown, each 2 hPa). (b) Vertical
cross-section of PV (brown) and wet-bulb potential temperature (red) along the line in (a). The relief is shown in black.

kind of cyclogenesis can be conceptualised through the PV associated with a low-level positive PV anomaly (in the
framework as the mutual interaction of finite-amplitude range 1.50.5 PV-units).
disturbances at the tropopause and the surface (Hoskins et The role of diabatic processes, such as latent heat release
al., 1985; see also Brennan and Lackmann, 2005; Santurette (LHR) in extratropical cyclogenesis in the perspective of PV
and Georgiev, 2005). The thermodynamic NWP fields in Fig. 6 concept is thoroughly discussed in Brennan and Lackmann
provide evidences for such a mutual amplification between (2005). LHR can further enhance the cyclogenesis process in
the upper-level PV anomaly (at the position of the black two ways that are readily evident in the PV framework. First,
arrow in Fig. 6a) and the hook-shaped low-level warm and LHR reduces the effective static stability, which enhances the
moist anomaly (maximum of w between the black arrows in vertical penetration of the circulation associated with the
Fig. 6b). The vertical cross-section of PV (brown contours in upper- and lower-boundary PV anomalies, increasing the
Fig. 7b) depicts that the low-level maximum of w is mutual amplification of these waves. Second, a maximum of
J.S. Stoyanova, C.G. Georgiev / Atmospheric Research 123 (2013) 384399 395

Fig. 8. ALADIN NWP model 12 hrs forecast for precipitations valid for 17 October 2011 1800 UTC.

diabatic heating produces (destroys) PV below (above) the initially generated by the latent heat release in the lower
level of maximum heating along the absolute vorticity vector. troposphere strengthened the inland moisture transport. The
Owing to the fact that PV maxima are associated with increased horizontal moisture flux and resulting increase in
negative geopotential height perturbations, diabatically gen- moisture flux convergence favour the inland precipitations
erated PV maxima in the lower troposphere are thus directly over the region of northeastern Bulgaria.
linked to the location and intensity of surface cyclones and The presented above considerations based on satellite
can be important in the transport of moisture, since these PV images along with NWP fields and cross-sections provide
maxima are usually located in a region of the atmosphere evidence for a good performance of ARPEGE global NWP model
with high moisture content. in the thermodynamic simulation of the rapid cyclogenesis.
Most of the elements of the case on 17 October 2011 seem Accordingly, the mesoscale ALADIN operational model (which
very similar to what is well documented in the literature is run at 12 hourly basis operationally at NIMH through initial
(e.g. Brennan and Lackmann, 2005). Fig. 7b shows a vertical fields of ARPEGE) predicted rain quantities of 7080 mm for
cross-section of wet-bulb potential temperature (red) along 12 hrs on 17 October 1800 UTC over the eastern Bulgaria (Fig. 8
the line (Fig. 7a) just to the north of the cyclone centre at the at the red arrow).
area of extremely heavy precipitations. The deep tropospheric The map of soil moistening on 16 October 1800 UTC
baroclinic zone is seen at the position of the black arrow at the (Fig. 9a) shows that the SMA is high and 6 to 41 mm rain is
gradient zone of wet-bulb potential temperature (w) con- needed to cause over moistening and flood risk in eastern part
tours, and it is clearly separated from the cold-air cluster. A of Bulgaria. This was a signal to the operational forecasters to
second, low-level baroclinic zone associated with the cold air issue flood warning for eastern part of Bulgaria in the afternoon
cluster that merges with a baroclinic zone along the Black Sea on 17 October 2011. A flash flood occurred in the city of Varna
coast (at the blue arrow in Fig. 7b) marks the leading edge of at the Black Sea coast due to an extreme rainfall of 97.0 mm for
cold, continental air surging southward behind the cyclone 12 hrs reported by the synoptic observations at 17 October
associated with the dry intrusion of high PV in the blocking 1800 UTC.
meridional circulation. The cloud mass associated with the An important factor for increasing flood risk at 1800 UTC
cold-air cluster over south-eastern Balkans has separated from on 17 October 2011 was the overmoistening in the Black Sea
the deep tropospheric baroclinic zone (along the black arrows offshore land analysed by SVAT_bg model and the SMAI
in Fig. 7a) over the sea. Fig 7a also shows that the surface low is product. At that time the cyclogenesis was still going on and
found at the coast close to the west of the dry slot. The vertical the SMAI map (dark blue in Fig. 9b) provided, in parallel to
cross-section of PV in Fig. 7b indicates exceptional tropopause the synoptic considerations, a clear sign for issuing flood
values of PV=1.5 PVU below 700 hPa level and an area of PV in warning for that offshore area. At 18 October 0600 UTC
the range 1.00.5 PVU in the boundary layer along a wide costal additional rainfall of 50 mm for 12 hrs is added to the
zone. In consistence with Brennan and Lackmann (2005), quantity of 73.6 mm from the previous 12 hrs period
we hypothesised that the lower-tropospheric PV maximum (measured at the synoptic station Varna). The flash flood
396 J.S. Stoyanova, C.G. Georgiev / Atmospheric Research 123 (2013) 384399

Fig. 9. Colour coded maps of Soil Moisture Availability Index /SMAI/ over Bulgaria and corresponding flood-producing rain quantities (mm) for 1800 UTC on (a) 16
October 2011 and (b) 17 October 2011.

situation in this case was a result of sustained high rainfall 5. Discussion and conclusion
rates over the whole eastern part of Bulgaria as seen by the
reports of the synoptic stations shown in Fig. 10a for 1800 UTC Flash-floods result from the combination of atmospheric
on 17 October and Fig. 10b for 1800 UTC on 18 October 2011. and land surface conditions. In this study the coupled
Among the other damages reported on 18 October 2011, at atmospheric/land surface nature of flood risks is accounted,
Stratzin village (located just to the west of the red arrow in considering the initial soil moisture of the top vegetation/soil
Fig. 8) the river burst its banks, flooded the road around the layer and its anomalies as parameters in support to the
river bridge at the village exit and blocked the traffic. operational weather forecast of extreme events. Based on a
In this case, the SVAT model derived SMAI map (Fig. 9b) simple one-dimensional LSM /SVAT_bg/, a framework for
was able to tell us that even moderate precipitation rates analysis of soil moisture and its ability to discriminate among
combined with the extreme soil overmoistening status (excess different levels of overmoistening and flood risk in situations of
of 31 to 56 above the FMC, dark blue in Fig. 9b) can develop heavy rain is presented. For that purpose, a quantity designat-
flash flood potential. The high initial SM was the additional ing the SM optimality/'deficiency/'excess, called Soil Mois-
critical factor that caused the reported flash-flood event in the ture Availability Index /SMAI/ is introduced by a 6-level
eastern regions of Bulgaria on 17 and 18 October 2011. threshold scheme. A colour-coded map of SMAI in combination
J.S. Stoyanova, C.G. Georgiev / Atmospheric Research 123 (2013) 384399 397

Fig. 10. Accumulated precipitations for 24 hrs from Bulgarian synoptic network for 1800 UTC on (a) 17 October 2011 and (b) 18 October 2011.

with the site-specific flood-producing rain quantities at specific development of flood are considered using two case studies
soil/climate/vegetation environment of Bulgaria is issued daily. as examples.
It is applied as a land surface diagnostic tool in parallel to the Dry anomaly of soil moistening is illustrated by the case
analyses of atmospheric thermodynamic conditions for the on 20 July 2011 developed in extremely dry low-level
purposes of operational weather analyses and forecasting of conditions when the low-level thermal forcing plays an
extreme events of over moistening and flood risk conditions important role in convective development (Section 4.1). The
(over Bulgaria). strong increase of wind speed aloft and strong wind shear
Low and high flood risk conditions in situations of from the surface to 600 hPa were conditions favourable for
strong synoptic scale forcing and different duration of the wind gust and hail (rather than heavy precipitations) related
extreme weather situations leading to intensive and heavy to the convective storm. The severity of the process was due
rain accordingly are used for illustration of the adopted to damaging wind and hail because of the strong troposphere
approach. Effects of the initial dry and wet soilvegetation dynamics, associated with a strong jet and a fast moving PV
moistening conditions in terms of their impact on the anomaly. Based on the NWP guidance and the SVAT model
398 J.S. Stoyanova, C.G. Georgiev / Atmospheric Research 123 (2013) 384399

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Georgiev, C.G., 2012. Information content of MPEF DIVergence product in
improved version of the manuscript. diagnosing the environment of deep convection. Accepted in Atmos. Res.,
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