Repository logo

Numerical simulation diagnostics of a flash flood event in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia




Samman, Ahmad, author
Cotton, William R., advisor
Schumacher, Russ, committee member
Fontane, Darrell G., committee member

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


On 26 January 2011, a severe storm hit the city of Jeddah, the second largest city in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The storm resulted in heavy rainfall, which produced a flash flood in a short period of time. This event caused at least eleven fatalities and more than 114 injuries. Unfortunately, the observed rainfall data are limited to the weather station at King Abdul Aziz International airport, which is north of the city, while the most extreme precipitation occurred over the southern part of the city. This observation was useful to compare simulation result even though it does not reflect the severity of the event. The Regional Atmospheric Modeling System (RAMS) developed at Colorado State University was used to study this storm event. RAMS simulations indicted that a quasi-stationary Mesoscale convective system developed over the city of Jeddah and lasted for several hours. It was the source of the huge amount of rainfall. The model computed a total rainfall of more than 110 mm in the southern part of the city, where the flash flood occurred. This precipitation estimation was confirmed by the actual observation of the weather radar. While the annual rainfall in Jeddah during the winter varies from 50 to 100 mm, the amount of the rainfall resulting from this storm event exceeded the climatological total annual rainfall. The simulation of this event showed that warm sea surface temperature, combined with high humidity in the lower atmosphere and a large amount of convective available potential energy (CAPE) provided a favorable environment for convection. It also showed the presence of a cyclonic system over the north and eastern parts of the Mediterranean Sea, and a subtropical anti-cyclone over Northeastern Africa that contributed to cold air advection bringing cold air to the Jeddah area. In addition, an anti-cyclone (blocking) centered over east and southeastern parts of the Arabian Peninsula and the Arabian Sea produced a low level jet over the southern part of the Red Sea, which transported large water vapor amounts over Jeddah. The simulation results showed that the main driver behind the storm was the interaction between these systems over the city of Jeddah (an urban heat island) that produced strong low-level convergence. Several sensitivity experiments were carried out showed that other variables could have contributed to storm severity as well. Those sensitivity experiments included several simulations in which the following variables were changed: physiographic properties were altered by removing the water surfaces, removing the urban heat island environment from the model, and changing the concentration of cloud condensation nuclei. The results of these sensitivity experiments showed that these properties have significant effects on the storm formation and severity.


2014 Spring.
Includes bibliographical references.

Rights Access


extreme precipitation
Saudi Arabia
flash floods


Associated Publications