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Large-Scale Influences on Summertime Extreme Precipitation in the Northeastern United States

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  • 1 Universities Space Research Association, Columbia, and Goddard Earth Sciences Technology and Research, and Global Modeling and Assimilation Office, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland
  • | 2 Global Modeling and Assimilation Office, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland
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Abstract

Observations indicate that over the last few decades there has been a statistically significant increase in precipitation in the northeastern United States and that this can be attributed to an increase in precipitation associated with extreme precipitation events. Here a state-of-the-art atmospheric reanalysis is used to examine such events in detail. Daily extreme precipitation events defined at the 75th and 95th percentile from gridded gauge observations are identified for a selected region within the Northeast. Atmospheric variables from the Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications, version 2 (MERRA-2), are then composited during these events to illustrate the time evolution of associated synoptic structures, with a focus on vertically integrated water vapor fluxes, sea level pressure, and 500-hPa heights. Anomalies of these fields move into the region from the northwest, with stronger anomalies present in the 95th percentile case. Although previous studies show tropical cyclones are responsible for the most intense extreme precipitation events, only 10% of the events in this study are caused by tropical cyclones. On the other hand, extreme events resulting from cutoff low pressure systems have increased. The time period of the study was divided in half to determine how the mean composite has changed over time. An arc of lower sea level pressure along the East Coast and a change in the vertical profile of equivalent potential temperature suggest a possible increase in the frequency or intensity of synoptic-scale baroclinic disturbances.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/JHM-D-16-0091.s1.

Corresponding author address: Allison B. Marquardt Collow, Global Modeling and Assimilation Office, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Code 610.1, 8800 Greenbelt Rd., Greenbelt, MD 20771. E-mail: allison.collow@nasa.gov

Abstract

Observations indicate that over the last few decades there has been a statistically significant increase in precipitation in the northeastern United States and that this can be attributed to an increase in precipitation associated with extreme precipitation events. Here a state-of-the-art atmospheric reanalysis is used to examine such events in detail. Daily extreme precipitation events defined at the 75th and 95th percentile from gridded gauge observations are identified for a selected region within the Northeast. Atmospheric variables from the Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications, version 2 (MERRA-2), are then composited during these events to illustrate the time evolution of associated synoptic structures, with a focus on vertically integrated water vapor fluxes, sea level pressure, and 500-hPa heights. Anomalies of these fields move into the region from the northwest, with stronger anomalies present in the 95th percentile case. Although previous studies show tropical cyclones are responsible for the most intense extreme precipitation events, only 10% of the events in this study are caused by tropical cyclones. On the other hand, extreme events resulting from cutoff low pressure systems have increased. The time period of the study was divided in half to determine how the mean composite has changed over time. An arc of lower sea level pressure along the East Coast and a change in the vertical profile of equivalent potential temperature suggest a possible increase in the frequency or intensity of synoptic-scale baroclinic disturbances.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/JHM-D-16-0091.s1.

Corresponding author address: Allison B. Marquardt Collow, Global Modeling and Assimilation Office, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Code 610.1, 8800 Greenbelt Rd., Greenbelt, MD 20771. E-mail: allison.collow@nasa.gov

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