2019 Volume 97 Issue 4 Pages 821-839
In this present study, we analyzed the synoptic and mesoscale dynamics and underlying mechanism of an extreme rainfall and flood event that occurred in Sri Lanka between 14-17 May 2016, using the Weather Research and Forecasting Model simulations with a horizontal grid size of 3 km and observational data. This extreme rainfall event was associated with a low-pressure system (LPS) that originated over the Bay of Bengal in the Indian Ocean and passed over Sri Lanka. The observed maximum accumulation of rainfall during the event exceeded 300 mm at several weather stations on 15-16 May and it resulted in severe flooding and landslides, particularly in the western part of the island. The model closely simulated the timing of the initiation of the LPS and its development along the east coast of Sri Lanka. The model could capture the overall rainfall tendency and pattern of this event. Synoptic and mesoscale analyses indicated that this extreme rainfall event occurred as the cumulative effect of a sustained low-level convergence zone, generated by an enhanced westerly monsoon flow and the circulation of the LPS, alongside a continuous supply of high-magnitude moisture, strong vertical motion, and orographic effects of the Central Mountains of Sri Lanka. Model sensitivity experiments indicated that the rainfall over the western slope area of the mountains was enhanced by mountain lifting, whereas western coastal rainfall was reduced because the mountains blocked the northeasterly flow of the LPS.