An Examination of an Inland-Penetrating Atmospheric River Flood Event under Potential Future Thermodynamic Conditions
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An Examination of an Inland-Penetrating Atmospheric River Flood Event under Potential Future Thermodynamic Conditions
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  • Source:
    Journal of Climate, 31(16), 6281-6297.
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  • Description:
    Atmospheric rivers (ARs) are well-known producers of precipitation along the U.S. West Coast. Depending on their intensity, orientation, and location of landfall, some ARs penetrate inland and cause heavy rainfall and flooding hundreds of miles from the coast. Climate change is projected to potentially alter a variety of AR characteristics and impacts. This study examines potential future changes in moisture transport and precipitation intensity, type, and distribution for a high-impact landfalling AR event in the U.S. Pacific Northwest using an ensemble of high-resolution numerical simulations produced under projected future thermodynamic changes.Results indicate increased total precipitation in all future simulations, although there is considerable model spread in both domain-averaged and localized inland precipitation totals. Notable precipitation enhancements across inland locations such as Idaho's Sawtooth Mountain Range are present in four out of six future simulations. The most marked inland precipitation increases are shown to occur by way of stronger and deeper moisture transport that more effectively crosses Oregon's Coastal and Cascade mountain ranges, essentially spilling over into the Snake River Valley and fueling orographic precipitation in the Sawtooth Mountains. Moisture transport enhancements are shown to have both thermodynamic and dynamic contributions, with both enhanced absolute environmental moisture and localized lower- and midlevel dynamics contributing to amplified inland moisture penetration. Precipitation that fell as snow in the present-day simulation becomes rain in the future simulations for many mid- and high-elevation locations, suggesting potential for enhanced flood risk for these regions in future climate instances of similar events.
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