Atmospheric rivers (ARs) are essential features of the global water cycle. Although AR definitions are commonly based on integrated vapor transport (IVT), ARs of a given IVT can induce a wide range of surface precipitation and wind impacts. We develop an AR “flavor” metric that partitions AR IVT into moisture‐dominant and wind‐dominant components. We use this metric to create a climatological catalog of “wet” and “windy” ARs along the U.S. West Coast from 1980 to 2016. Windy ARs are generally associated with stronger surface winds than are wet ARs, with the largest differences at low IVT. Windy ARs are also associated with greater daily precipitation totals than are wet ARs, with the difference widening at higher IVT, notably over mountainous regions. Pacific Northwest ARs have become increasingly moisture dominated over 1980–2016, which has important implications for western U.S. water availability and flood risk.more » « less
- NSF-PAR ID:
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- DOI PREFIX: 10.1029
- Date Published:
- Journal Name:
- Geophysical Research Letters
- Medium: X
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
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Abstract We present the Arctic atmospheric river (AR) climatology based on twelve sets of labels derived from ERA5 and MERRA-2 reanalyses for 1980–2019. The ARs were identified and tracked in the 3-hourly reanalysis data with a multifactorial approach based on either atmospheric column-integrated water vapor (IWV) or integrated water vapor transport (IVT) exceeding one of the three climate thresholds (75th, 85th, and 95th percentiles). Time series analysis of the AR event counts from the AR labels showed overall upward trends from the mid-1990s to 2019. The 75th IVT- and IWV-based labels, as well as the 85th IWV-based labels, are likely more sensitive to Arctic surface warming, therefore, detected some broadening of AR-affected areas over time, while the rest of the labels did not. Spatial exploratory analysis of these labels revealed that the AR frequency of occurrence maxima shifted poleward from over-land in 1980–1999 to over the Arctic Ocean and its outlying Seas in 2000–2019. Regions across the Atlantic, the Arctic, to the Pacific Oceans trended higher AR occurrence, surface temperature, and column-integrated moisture. Meanwhile, ARs were increasingly responsible for the rising moisture transport into the Arctic. Even though the increase of Arctic AR occurrence was primarily associated with long-term Arctic surface warming and moistening, the effects of changing atmospheric circulation could stand out locally, such as on the Pacific side over the Chukchi Sea. The changing teleconnection patterns strongly modulated AR activities in time and space, with prominent anomalies in the Arctic-Pacific sector during the latest decade. Besides, the extreme events identified by the 95th-percentile labels displayed the most significant changes and were most influenced by the teleconnection patterns. The twelve Arctic AR labels and the detailed graphics in the atlas can help navigate the uncertainty of detecting and quantifying Arctic ARs and their associated effects in current and future studies.more » « less
We present a comparative analysis of atmospheric rivers (ARs) and Great Plains low-level jets (GPLLJs) in the central United States during April–September 1901–2010 using ECMWF’s Coupled Reanalysis of the Twentieth Century (CERA-20C). The analysis is motivated by a perceived need to highlight overlap and synergistic opportunities between traditionally disconnected AR and GPLLJ research. First, using the Guan–Walliser integrated vapor transport (IVT)-based AR classification and Bonner–Whiteman-based GPLLJ classification, we identify days with either an AR and/or GPLLJ spanning 15% of the central United States. These days are grouped into five event samples: 1) all GPLLJ, 2) AR GPLLJ, 3) non-AR GPLLJ, 4) AR non-GPLLJ, and 5) all AR. Then, we quantify differences in the frequency, seasonality, synoptic environment, and extreme weather impacts corresponding to each event sample. Over the twentieth century, April–September AR frequency remained constant whereas GPLLJ frequency significantly decreased. Of GPLLJ days, 36% are associated with a coincident AR. Relative to ARs that are equally probable from April–September, GPLLJs exhibit distinct seasonality, with peak occurrence in July. A 500-hPa geopotential height comparison shows a persistent ridge over the central United States for non-AR GPLLJ days, whereas on AR GPLLJ days, a trough-and-ridge pattern is present over western to eastern CONUS. AR GPLLJ days have 34% greater 850-hPa windspeeds, 53% greater IVT, and 72% greater 24-h precipitation accumulation than non-AR GPLLJ days. In terms of 95th-percentile 850-hPa wind speed, IVT, and 24-h precipitation, that of AR GPLLJs is 25%, 45%, and 23% greater than non-AR GPLLJs, respectively.
Atmospheric rivers (ARs) often generate extreme precipitation, with AR temperature strongly influencing hydrologic impacts by altering the timing and magnitude of runoff. Long‐term changes in AR temperatures therefore have important implications for regional hydroclimate—especially in locations where a shift to more rain‐dominated AR precipitation could affect flood risk and/or water storage in snowpack. In this study, we provide the first climatology of AR temperature across five U.S. West Coast subregions. We then assess trends in landfalling AR temperatures for each subregion from 1980 to 2016 using three reanalysis products. We find AR warming at seasonal and monthly scales. Cool‐season warming ranges from 0.69 to 1.65 °C over the study period. We detect monthly scale warming of >2 °C, with the most widespread warming occurring in November and March. To understand the causes of AR warming, we quantify the density of AR tracks from genesis to landfall and analyze along‐track AR temperature for each month and landfall region. We investigate three possible influences on AR temperature trends at landfall: along‐track temperatures prior to landfall, background temperatures over the landfall region, and AR temperature over the coastal ocean adjacent to the region of landfall. Generally, AR temperatures at landfall more closely match coastal and background temperature trends than along‐track AR temperature trends. The seasonal asymmetry of the AR warming and the heterogeneity of influences have important implications for regional water storage and flood risk—demonstrating that changes in AR characteristics are complex and may not be directly inferred from changes in the background climate.
Abstract Atmospheric rivers (ARs) are a frequently studied phenomenon along the West Coast of the United States, where they are typically associated with the heaviest local flooding events and almost one-half of the annual precipitation totals. By contrast, ARs in the northeastern United States have received considerably less attention. The purpose of this study is to utilize a unique visual inspection methodology to create a 30-yr (1988–2017) climatology of ARs in the northeastern United States. Consistent with its formal definition, ARs are defined as corridors with integrated vapor transport (IVT) values greater than 250 kg m −1 s −1 over an area at least 2000 km long but less than 1000 km wide in association with an extratropical cyclone. Using MERRA2 reanalysis data, this AR definition is used to determine the frequency, duration, and spatial distribution of ARs across the northeastern United States. Approximately 100 ARs occur in the northeastern United States per year, with these ARs being quasi-uniformly distributed throughout the year. On average, northeastern U.S. ARs have a peak IVT magnitude between 750 and 999 kg m −1 s −1 , last less than 48 h, and arrive in the region from the west to southwest. Average AR durations are longer in summer and shorter in winter. Further, ARs are typically associated with lower IVT in winter and higher IVT in summer. Spatially, ARs more frequently occur over the Atlantic Ocean coastline and adjacent Gulf Stream waters; however, the frequency with which large IVT values are associated with ARs is highest over interior New England.more » « less
The Antarctic ice sheet (AIS) is sensitive to short‐term extreme meteorological events that can leave long‐term impacts on the continent's surface mass balance (SMB). We investigate the impacts of atmospheric rivers (ARs) on the AIS precipitation budget using an AR detection algorithm and a regional climate model (Modèle Atmosphérique Régional) from 1980 to 2018. While ARs and their associated extreme vapor transport are relatively rare events over Antarctic coastal regions (∼3 days per year), they have a significant impact on the precipitation climatology. ARs are responsible for at least 10% of total accumulated snowfall across East Antarctica (localized areas reaching 20%) and a majority of extreme precipitation events. Trends in AR annual frequency since 1980 are observed across parts of AIS, most notably an increasing trend in Dronning Maud Land; however, interannual variability in AR frequency is much larger. This AR behavior appears to drive a significant portion of annual snowfall trends across East Antarctica, while controlling the interannual variability of precipitation across most of the AIS. AR landfalls are most likely when the circumpolar jet is highly amplified during blocking conditions in the Southern Ocean. There is a fingerprint of the Southern Annular Mode (SAM) on AR variability in West Antarctica with SAM+ (SAM−) favoring increased AR frequency in the Antarctic Peninsula (Amundsen‐Ross Sea coastline). Given the relatively large influence ARs have on precipitation across the continent, it is advantageous for future studies of moisture transport to Antarctica to consider an AR framework especially when considering future SMB changes.