Understanding the Role of Atmospheric Rivers in Heavy Precipitation in the Southeast United States
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Understanding the Role of Atmospheric Rivers in Heavy Precipitation in the Southeast United States
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  • Source:
    Monthly Weather Review, 144(4), 1617-1632.
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  • Description:
    An analysis of atmospheric rivers (ARs) as defined by an automated AR detection tool based on integrated water vapor transport (IVT) and the connection to heavy precipitation in the southeast United States (SEUS) is performed. Climatological water vapor and water vapor transport fields are compared between the U.S. West Coast (WCUS) and the SEUS, highlighting stronger seasonal variation in integrated water vapor in the SEUS and stronger seasonal variation in IVT in the WCUS. The climatological analysis suggests that IVT values above ~500 kg m(-1) s(-1) (as incorporated into an objective identification tool such as the AR detection tool used here) may serve as a sensible threshold for defining ARs in the SEUS. Atmospheric river impacts on heavy precipitation in the SEUS are shown to vary on an annual cycle, and a connection between ARs and heavy precipitation during the nonsummer months is demonstrated. When identified ARs are matched to heavy precipitation days (>100 mm day(-1)), an average match rate of ~41% is found. Results suggest that some aspects of an AR identification framework in the SEUS may offer benefit in forecasting heavy precipitation, particularly at medium- to longer-range forecast lead times. However, the relatively high frequency of SEUS heavy precipitation cases in which an AR is not identified necessitates additional careful consideration and incorporation of other critical aspects of heavy precipitation environments such that significant predictive skill might eventually result.
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