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Extreme Snow Events along the Coast of the Northeast United States: Analysis of Observations and HiRAM Simulations

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  • 1 Atmospheric Sciences Research Center, University at Albany, State University of New York, Albany, New York
  • | 2 Research Center for Environmental Changes, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan
  • | 3 National Science and Technology Center for Disaster Reduction, Taipei, Taiwan
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Abstract

This study used both observations and global climate model simulations to investigate the characteristics of winter extreme snowfall events along the coast (the Interstate 95 corridor) of the northeast United States where several mega-cities are located. Observational analyses indicate that, during 1980–2015, 110 events occurred when four coastal cities—Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.—had either individually or collectively experienced daily snowfall exceeding the local 95th percentile thresholds. Boston had the most events, with a total of 69, followed by 40, 36, and 30 (moving southward) in the other three cities. The associated circulations at 200 and 850 hPa were categorized via K-means clustering. The resulting three composite circulations are characterized by the strength and location of the jet at 200 hPa and the coupled low pressure system at 850 hPa: a strong jet overlying the cities coupled with an inland trough, a weak and slightly southward shifted jet coupled with a cyclone at the coast, and a weak jet stream situated to the south of the cities coupled with a cyclone over the coastal oceans. Comparative analyses were also conducted using the GFDL High Resolution Atmospheric Model (HiRAM) simulation of the same period. Although the simulated extreme events do not provide one-to-one correspondence with observations, the characteristics nevertheless show consistency notably in total number of occurrences, intraseasonal and multiple-year variations, snow spatial coverage, and the associated circulation patterns. Possible future change in extreme snow events was also explored utilizing the HiRAM RCP8.5 (2075–2100) simulation. The analyses suggest that a warming global climate tends to decrease the extreme snowfall events but increase extreme rainfall events.

Current affiliation: State Key Laboratory of Tropical Oceanography, South China Sea Institute of Oceanology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guangzhou, China.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: https://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-18-0874.s1.

© 2019 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Wei-Chyung Wang, wcwang@albany.edu

Abstract

This study used both observations and global climate model simulations to investigate the characteristics of winter extreme snowfall events along the coast (the Interstate 95 corridor) of the northeast United States where several mega-cities are located. Observational analyses indicate that, during 1980–2015, 110 events occurred when four coastal cities—Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.—had either individually or collectively experienced daily snowfall exceeding the local 95th percentile thresholds. Boston had the most events, with a total of 69, followed by 40, 36, and 30 (moving southward) in the other three cities. The associated circulations at 200 and 850 hPa were categorized via K-means clustering. The resulting three composite circulations are characterized by the strength and location of the jet at 200 hPa and the coupled low pressure system at 850 hPa: a strong jet overlying the cities coupled with an inland trough, a weak and slightly southward shifted jet coupled with a cyclone at the coast, and a weak jet stream situated to the south of the cities coupled with a cyclone over the coastal oceans. Comparative analyses were also conducted using the GFDL High Resolution Atmospheric Model (HiRAM) simulation of the same period. Although the simulated extreme events do not provide one-to-one correspondence with observations, the characteristics nevertheless show consistency notably in total number of occurrences, intraseasonal and multiple-year variations, snow spatial coverage, and the associated circulation patterns. Possible future change in extreme snow events was also explored utilizing the HiRAM RCP8.5 (2075–2100) simulation. The analyses suggest that a warming global climate tends to decrease the extreme snowfall events but increase extreme rainfall events.

Current affiliation: State Key Laboratory of Tropical Oceanography, South China Sea Institute of Oceanology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guangzhou, China.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: https://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-18-0874.s1.

© 2019 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Wei-Chyung Wang, wcwang@albany.edu

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