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  1. Abstract

    On 1 September 2021, the remnants of Hurricane Ida transformed into a lethal variant of tropical cyclone in which unprecedented short‐duration rainfall from clusters of supercells produced catastrophic flooding in watersheds of the Northeastern US. Short‐duration rainfall extremes from Ida are examined through analyses of polarimetric radar fields and rain gauge observations. Rainfall estimates are constructed from a polarimetric rainfall algorithm that is grounded in specific differential phase shift (KDP) fields. Rainfall accumulations at multiple locations exceed 1000‐year values for 1–3 hr time scales. Radar observations show that supercells are the principal agents of rainfall extremes. Record flood peaks occurred throughout the eastern Pennsylvania—New Jersey region; the peak discharge of the Elizabeth River is one of the most extreme in the eastern US, based on the ratio of the peak discharge to the sample 10‐year flood at the gaging station. As with other tropical cyclones that have produced record flooding in the Northeastern US, Extratropical Transition was a key element of extreme rainfall and flooding from Ida. Tropical and extratropical elements of the storm system contributed to extremes of atmospheric water balance variables and Convective Available Potential Energy, providing the environment for extreme short‐duration rainfall from supercells.

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  2. Abstract

    During and after rainfall events, the interaction of precipitation with hot urban pavements leads to hot runoff, and its merger with urban streams can result in an abrupt change in water temperature that can harm aquatic ecosystems. To understand this phenomenon and its relation to land cover and hydrometeorological parameters, we analyzed data spanning two years from 100 sites in the eastern United States. To identify surges, we first isolated temperature jumps of at least 0.5°C over 15 min occurring simultaneously with water flow increase. Surge magnitude was defined as the difference between peak stream temperature and baseflow temperature right before the jump. At least 10 surges were observed in 53 of the studied streams, with some surges exceeding 10°C. Our results demonstrate that the watershed developed area and vegetation fraction are the best descriptors of surge frequency (Spearman correlation of 0.76 and 0.77, respectively). On the other hand, for surge magnitude and peak temperature, the primary drivers are stream discharge and stream temperature immediately before the surge. In general, the more urbanized streams were found to be already warmer than their more “vegetated” counterparts during baseflow conditions, and were also the most affected by temperature surges. Together, these findings suggest the existence of a hydrological urban heat island, here defined as the increase in stream temperature (chronic and/or acute), caused by increased urbanization.

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  3. Abstract

    We report an empirical analysis of the hydrologic response of three small, highly impervious urban watersheds to pulse rainfall events, to assess how traditional stormwater management (SWM) alters urban hydrographs. The watersheds vary in SWM coverage from 3% to 61% and in impervious cover from 45% to 67%. By selecting a set of storm events that involved a single rainfall pulse with >96% of total precipitation delivered in 60 min, we reduced the effect of differences between storms on hydrograph response to isolate characteristic responses attributable to watershed properties. Watershed‐average radar rainfall data were used to generate local storm hyetographs for each event in each watershed, thus compensating for the extreme spatial and temporal heterogeneity of short‐duration, intense rainfall events. By normalizing discharge values to the discharge peak and centring each hydrograph on the time of peak we were able to visualize the envelope of hydrographs for each group and to generate representative composite hydrographs for comparison across the three watersheds. Despite dramatic differences in the fraction of watershed area draining to SWM features across these three headwater tributaries, we did not find strong evidence that SWM causes significant attenuation of the hydrograph peak. Hydrograph response for the three watersheds is remarkably uniform despite contrasts in SWM, impervious cover and spatial patterns of land cover type. The primary difference in hydrograph response is observed on the recession limb of the hydrograph, and that change appears to be associated with higher storm‐total runoff in the watersheds with more area draining to SWM. Our findings contribute more evidence to the work of previous authors suggesting that SWM is less effective at attenuating urban hydrographs than is commonly assumed. Our findings also are consistent with previous work concluding that percent impervious cover may have greater influence on runoff volume than percent SWM coverage.

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  4. The structure and evolution of flash flood–producing storms over a small urban watershed in the mid-Atlantic United States with a prototypical flash flood response is examined. Lagrangian storm properties are investigated through analyses of the 32 storms that produced the largest peak discharges in Moores Run between January 2000 and May 2014. The Thunderstorm Identification, Tracking, Analysis, and Nowcasting (TITAN) algorithm is used to track storm characteristics over their life cycle with a focus on storm size, movement, intensity, and location. First, the 13 June 2003 and 1 June 2006 storms, which produced the two largest peak discharges for the study period, are analyzed. Heavy rainfall for the 13 June 2003 and 1 June 2006 storms were caused by a collapsing thunderstorm cell and a slow-moving, low-echo centroid storm. Analyses of the 32 storms show that collapsing storm cells play an important role in peak rainfall rate production and flash flooding. Storm motion is predominantly southwest-to-northeast, and approximately half of the storms exhibited some linear organization. Mean storm total rainfall for the 32 storms displayed an asymmetric distribution around Moores Run, with sharply decreasing gradients southwest of the watershed (upwind and into the city) and increased rainfall to the northeast (downwind and away from the city). Results indicate urban modification of rainfall in flash flood–producing storms. There was no evidence that the storms split around Baltimore. Flood-producing rainfall was highly concentrated in time; on average, approximately 21% of the storm total rainfall fell within 15 min. 
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  5. Abstract

    Flash flooding in the arid/semiarid southwestern United States is frequently associated with convective rainfall during the North American monsoon. In this study, we examine flood-producing storms in central Arizona based on analyses of dense rain gauge observations and stream gauging records as well as North American Regional Reanalysis fields. Our storm catalog consists of 102 storm events during the period of 1988–2014. Synoptic conditions for flood-producing storms are characterized based on principal component analyses. Four dominant synoptic modes are identified, with the first two modes explaining approximately 50% of the variance of the 500-hPa geopotential height. The transitional synoptic pattern from the North American monsoon regime to midlatitude systems is a critical large-scale feature for extreme rainfall and flooding in central Arizona. Contrasting spatial rainfall organizations and storm environment under the four synoptic modes highlights the role of interactions among synoptic conditions, mesoscale processes, and complex terrains in determining space–time variability of convective activities and flash flood hazards in central Arizona. We characterize structure and evolution properties of flood-producing storms based on storm tracking algorithms and 3D radar reflectivity. Fast-moving storm elements can be important ingredients for flash floods in the arid/semiarid southwestern United States. Contrasting storm properties for cloudburst storms highlight the wide spectrum of convective intensities for extreme rain rates in the arid/semiarid southwestern United States and exhibit comparable vertical structures to their counterparts in the eastern United States.

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  6. Abstract

    The 14 September 2015 Hildale, Utah, storm resulted in 20 flash flood fatalities, making it the most deadly natural disaster in Utah history; it is the quintessential example of the “paroxysmal precipitation of the desert”. The measured peak discharge from Maxwell Canyon at a drainage area of 5.3 km2was 266 m3/s, a value that exceeds envelope curve peaks for Utah. The 14 September 2015 flash flood reflects features common to other major flash flood events in the region, as well as unique features. The flood was produced by a hailstorm that was moving rapidly from southwest to northeast and intensified as it interacted with complex terrain. Polarimetric radar observations show that the storm exhibited striking temporal variability, with the Maxwell Canyon tributary of Short Creek and a small portion of the East Fork Virgin River basin experiencing extreme precipitation. Periods of extreme rainfall rates for the 14 September 2015 storm are characterized byKDPsignatures of extreme rainfall in polarimetric radar measurements. SimilarKDPsignatures characterized multiple storms that have produced record and near‐record flood peaks in Colorado Plateau watersheds. The climatology of monsoon thunderstorms that produce flash floods exhibits striking spatial heterogeneities in storm occurrence and motion. The hydroclimatology of flash flooding in arid/semiarid watersheds of the southwestern United States exhibits relatively weak dependence on drainage basin area. Large flood peaks over a broad range of basin scales can be produced by small thunderstorms like the 14 September 2015 Hildale Storm, which pass close to the outlet.

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