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The Impacts of California's San Francisco Bay Area Gap on Precipitation Observed in the Sierra Nevada during HMT and CalWater
  • Published Date:
    2015
  • Source:
    Journal of Hydrometeorology, 16(3), 1048-1069.
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The Impacts of California's San Francisco Bay Area Gap on Precipitation Observed in the Sierra Nevada during HMT and CalWater
Details:
  • Description:
    Atmospheric rivers (ARs) are narrow regions of enhanced water vapor transport, usually found on the warm-sector side of the polar cold front in many midlatitude storms formed primarily over the oceans. Nonbrightband (NBB) rain is a shallow orographic rainfall process driven by collision and coalescence that has been observed in some of these storms. NBB rain accounts for about one-third, on average, of the total winter season rainfall occurring at a coastal mountain site in Northern California. During the California Energy Commission's CalWater project, nearly the same fraction of NBB rain was observed at a northern Sierra Nevada foothills site as compared to the coastal mountains, whereas less than half of the fractional amount of NBB rain was observed at a southern Sierra Nevada foothills site. Both Sierra Nevada sites often experience terrain-induced blocked flow, that is, Sierra barrier jet (SBJ) during landfalling winter storms. However, the northern Sierra Nevada site often is oriented geographically downwind of a gap in the coastal terrain near San Francisco during AR landfall. This gap allows maritime air in the AR to arrive at the northern site and enhance the collision-coalescence process in orographic feeder clouds as compared with the southern site. As a result, a greater amount and intensity of NBB rain and overall precipitation was produced at the northern site. This study uses a variety of observations collected in the coastal and Sierra Nevada ranges from the Hydrometeorology Testbed and CalWater field campaigns to document this behavior. A detailed case study provides additional context on the interaction between AR flow, the SBJ, and precipitation processes.

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