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Rainfall Occurrence in the U.S. Warm Season: The Diurnal Cycle

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  • 1 National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado
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Abstract

The diurnal occurrence of warm-season rainfall over the U.S. mainland is examined, particularly in light of forcings at multiple scales. The analysis is based on a radar dataset of 12-seasons duration covering the U.S. mainland from the Continental Divide eastward. The dataset resolves 2-km features at 15-min intervals, thus providing a detailed view of both large- and regional-scale diurnal patterns, as well as the statistics of events underlying these patterns. The results confirm recent findings with respect to the role of propagating rainfall systems and the high frequency at which these are excited by sensible heating over elevated terrain. Between the Rockies and the Appalachians, ∼60% of midsummer rainfall occurs in this manner.

Most rainfall in the central United States is nocturnal and may be attributed to the following three main forcings: 1) the passage of eastward-propagating rainfall systems with origins near the Continental Divide at 105°W; 2) a nocturnal reversal of the mountain–plains solenoid, which is associated with widespread ascent over the plains; and 3) the transport of energetic air and moisture convergence by the Great Plains low-level jet.

Other features of interest include effects of the Appalachians, semidiurnal signals of regional significance, and the impact of breezes along the Gulf of Mexico. A modest effort was put forth to discern signals associated with El Niño and the Southern Oscillation. While tendencies in precipitation patterns are observed, the record is too short to draw conclusions of general significance.

+ The National Center for Atmospheric Research is sponsored by the National Science Foundation

Corresponding author address: R. E. Carbone, NCAR/TIIMES, Boulder, CO 80307-3000. Email: carbone@ucar.edu

This article included in the Understanding Diurnal Variability of Precipitation through Observations and Models (UDVPOM) special collection.

Abstract

The diurnal occurrence of warm-season rainfall over the U.S. mainland is examined, particularly in light of forcings at multiple scales. The analysis is based on a radar dataset of 12-seasons duration covering the U.S. mainland from the Continental Divide eastward. The dataset resolves 2-km features at 15-min intervals, thus providing a detailed view of both large- and regional-scale diurnal patterns, as well as the statistics of events underlying these patterns. The results confirm recent findings with respect to the role of propagating rainfall systems and the high frequency at which these are excited by sensible heating over elevated terrain. Between the Rockies and the Appalachians, ∼60% of midsummer rainfall occurs in this manner.

Most rainfall in the central United States is nocturnal and may be attributed to the following three main forcings: 1) the passage of eastward-propagating rainfall systems with origins near the Continental Divide at 105°W; 2) a nocturnal reversal of the mountain–plains solenoid, which is associated with widespread ascent over the plains; and 3) the transport of energetic air and moisture convergence by the Great Plains low-level jet.

Other features of interest include effects of the Appalachians, semidiurnal signals of regional significance, and the impact of breezes along the Gulf of Mexico. A modest effort was put forth to discern signals associated with El Niño and the Southern Oscillation. While tendencies in precipitation patterns are observed, the record is too short to draw conclusions of general significance.

+ The National Center for Atmospheric Research is sponsored by the National Science Foundation

Corresponding author address: R. E. Carbone, NCAR/TIIMES, Boulder, CO 80307-3000. Email: carbone@ucar.edu

This article included in the Understanding Diurnal Variability of Precipitation through Observations and Models (UDVPOM) special collection.

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