Empirical Return Periods of the Most Intense Vapor Transports during Historical Atmospheric River Landfalls on the U.S. West Coast
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Empirical Return Periods of the Most Intense Vapor Transports during Historical Atmospheric River Landfalls on the U.S. West Coast

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  • Journal Title:
    Journal of Hydrometeorology
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    Atmospheric rivers (ARs) come in all intensities, and clear communication of risks posed by individual storms in observations and forecasts can be a challenge. Modest ARs can be characterized by the percentile rank of their integrated water vapor transport (IVT) rates compared to past ARs. Stronger ARs can be categorized more clearly in terms of return periods or, equivalently, historical probabilities that at least one AR will exceed a given IVT threshold in any given year. Based on a 1980–2016 chronology of AR landfalls on the U.S. West Coast from NASA’s Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications, version 2 (MERRA-2), datasets, the largest instantaneous IVTs—greater than 1700 kg m−1 s−1—have occurred in ARs making landfall between 41° and 46°N with return periods longer than 20 years. IVT values with similar return periods are smaller to the north and, especially, to the south (declining to ~750 kg m−1 s−1). The largest storm-sequence IVT totals have been centered near 42.5°N, with scatter among the top few events, and these large storm-sequence totals depend more on sequence duration than on the instantaneous IVT that went into them. Maximum instantaneous IVTs are largest in the Pacific Northwest in autumn, with largest IVT values arriving farther south as winter and spring unfold, until maximum IVTs reach Northern California in spring.
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    Journal of Hydrometeorology, 19(8), 1363-1377
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    1525-755X;1525-7541;
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