MARINAKI Alexi M., FITCHETT Jennifer M.. 2024: Classifying moisture sources associated with snowfall in the mountains of Lesotho. Journal of Mountain Science, 21(6): 1941-1953. DOI: 10.1007/s11629-023-8509-4
Citation: MARINAKI Alexi M., FITCHETT Jennifer M.. 2024: Classifying moisture sources associated with snowfall in the mountains of Lesotho. Journal of Mountain Science, 21(6): 1941-1953. DOI: 10.1007/s11629-023-8509-4

Classifying moisture sources associated with snowfall in the mountains of Lesotho

  • An average of eight snowfall events occur each year in the eastern Lesotho Highlands. These snowfall events are typically associated with cut-off low (CoLs) systems and mid-latitude cyclones. However, the moisture sources of the snowfall are unclassified and unclear. The Hybrid Single-Particle Lagrangian Integrated Trajectory (HYSPLIT) model, an air mass back trajectory model, has been used to evaluate moisture source waters locally in southern Africa and internationally in China and Europe. This study uses HYSPLIT to determine the source moisture of snow in Lesotho. A list of all 82 snowfall events in Lesotho spanning 2017 to 2022 was compiled using the Snow Report SA Instagram page, including the date and location of snowfall. A 72-hour back trajectory for each snowfall event was initiated for both Afriski and the whole of Lesotho. This amounts to models of moisture source trajectories for 28 and 82 snowfall days, respectively. These air mass pathways are classified according to their frequency per snowfall event, per month in the snow season, per year and for the full period. From this, associated moisture source regions and dominant air mass trajectories were identified. This study reports that the air mass trajectories associated with Afriski and Lesotho as a whole are very similar. The most common pathway of air mass trajectories transporting snow-bearing moisture to Lesotho was an inland trajectory from the northern regions of southern Africa. This pathway makes up 16.6% of all trajectories reported and is associated with the Angola Low, the Congo Air Boundary and the St. Helena High Pressure.
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