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Short-Term and Seasonal Variability of the Atmospheric Water Vapor Transport through the Mackenzie River Basin

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  • 1 Department of Physics, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
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Abstract

The transport of water vapor through the Mackenzie River basin, a typical high-latitude river basin, is examined for the years 1979–93, with the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts reanalysis dataset (ERA). It is shown that the transport of water vapor through the Mackenzie basin is highly variable in space and time. This transport has two distinct modes. During the autumn, winter, and spring, moisture is transported into the basin from the southwest by extratropical cyclones. The source of this moisture is argued to be the subtropical and midlatitude central Pacific Ocean. During the summer, moisture enters the basin from the northwest, with the source region being the Arctic Ocean. The values of monthly water vapor budgets obtained with the objectively analyzed fields are compared with those obtained from interpolated radiosonde data and with other known quantitative information about the water budget of the basin. It is found that the ERA data seriously overestimate the values of monthly water budget. A discussion of various potential sources of this discrepancy is provided.

*V. V. Smirnov died in a mountain climbing accident in December 1999. This paper was completed after his death and is published as a memorial to him.

Corresponding author address: Dr. G. W. K. Moore, Dept. of Physics, University of Toronto, 60 St. George St., Toronto, ON M5S 1A7, Canada.

Email: moore@atmosp.physics.utoronto.ca

Abstract

The transport of water vapor through the Mackenzie River basin, a typical high-latitude river basin, is examined for the years 1979–93, with the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts reanalysis dataset (ERA). It is shown that the transport of water vapor through the Mackenzie basin is highly variable in space and time. This transport has two distinct modes. During the autumn, winter, and spring, moisture is transported into the basin from the southwest by extratropical cyclones. The source of this moisture is argued to be the subtropical and midlatitude central Pacific Ocean. During the summer, moisture enters the basin from the northwest, with the source region being the Arctic Ocean. The values of monthly water vapor budgets obtained with the objectively analyzed fields are compared with those obtained from interpolated radiosonde data and with other known quantitative information about the water budget of the basin. It is found that the ERA data seriously overestimate the values of monthly water budget. A discussion of various potential sources of this discrepancy is provided.

*V. V. Smirnov died in a mountain climbing accident in December 1999. This paper was completed after his death and is published as a memorial to him.

Corresponding author address: Dr. G. W. K. Moore, Dept. of Physics, University of Toronto, 60 St. George St., Toronto, ON M5S 1A7, Canada.

Email: moore@atmosp.physics.utoronto.ca

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