Analysis of the Marmara flood in Turkey, 7-10 September 2009: An assessment from hydrometeorological perspective

Kömüşcü A. Ü., Çelik S.

Natural Hazards, vol.66, no.2, pp.781-808, 2013 (SCI-Expanded) identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 66 Issue: 2
  • Publication Date: 2013
  • Doi Number: 10.1007/s11069-012-0521-x
  • Journal Name: Natural Hazards
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.781-808
  • Keywords: Back door cold front, Convective systems, Floods, Instability indices, Marmara region, Mediterranean cyclones, Turkey, Urbanization
  • Ankara Haci Bayram Veli University Affiliated: Yes


Turkey often suffers from flood-related damages and causalities as a result of intense and prolonged storms that are usually convective or cyclonic in origin. The impact is more distinctive in Aegean and Mediterranean coasts of the country where quantity and distribution of rainfall is influenced by Mediterranean cyclones, especially in late autumn and early winter. The floods sometimes became very hazardous when combined with urbanization effects, especially in the densely populated coastal communities and major cities. Severe weather was marked in the early parts of September 2009 that produced record-setting rainfall amounts across the Marmara region of Turkey and led a series of flash floods which affected İstanbul and Tekirdaǧ provinces especially. The overall flooding was the result of successive and persistent intense rainfall episodes over a 3-day period which produced more than 250-mm rainfall over portions of the region. The floods resulted in death of 32 people and caused extensive environmental and infrastructural damage in the region. This study provides in-depth analysis of hydrometeorological conditions that led to the occurrence of flash floods in Marmara region during 7-10 September 2009 period and also discusses non-meteorological factors that exacerbated the flooding conditions. Main meteorological settings that led to intense storms were presence of cold air in the upper atmosphere, a slow-moving quasi-stationary trough, and continuous resupply of moisture to the surface low from the warm Aegean Sea. Radar images showed the development of clusters of convective cells that remained quasi-stationary over portions of the region. The 24-h rainfall amounts varied between 100 and 253 mm in most parts of the region during the flooding period with diverse spatial patterns. The southern locations received the highest amount of the rainfall as compared to stations located in northern slopes of the region. Typical effects of orography that enhance rainfall in the coastal areas, however, were not observed during the Marmara flood. Some features of the synoptic pattern observed prior and during the flooding period, supported the back door cold front concept. This is characterized with easterly to northeasterly surface flows forced by an anticyclone, advection of cold continental air over the warm Black Sea which provided anomalous moisture to trigger cyclogenesis over the Marmara region, and falling of core of the intense rainfall over the Marmara Sea. The study concluded that although the meteorological settings were favorable for the convective rainfalls, urbanization factors, such as land use changes and occupation of flood plains, played major role in aggravating the worst flood observed in the region in recent decades. © 2012 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.