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Hydrometeorological Characteristics of Ice Jams on the Pemigewasset River in Central New Hampshire

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  • 1 Meteorology Program, Plymouth State University, Plymouth, New Hampshire
  • | 2 Department of Geoscience, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Geneva, New York
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Abstract

Ice jams that occurred on the Pemigewasset River in central New Hampshire resulted in significant localized flooding on 26 February 2017 and 13 January 2018. Analyses of these two case studies shows that both ice jam events occurred in association with enhanced moisture transport characteristic of atmospheric rivers (ARs) that resulted in rain-on-snow, snowpack ablation, and rapid increases in streamflow across central New Hampshire. However, while the ice jams and ARs that preceded them were similar, the antecedent hydrometeorological characteristics of the region were different. The February 2017 event featured a “long melting period with low precipitation” scenario, with several days of warm (~5°–20°C) maximum surface temperatures that resulted in extensive snowmelt followed by short-duration, weak AR that produced ~10–15 mm of precipitation during a 6-h period prior to the formation of the ice jam. Alternatively, the January 2018 event featured a “short melting period with high precipitation” scenario with snowmelt that occurred primarily during a more intense and long-duration AR that produced >50 mm of rainfall during a 30-h period prior to the formation of the ice jam. Composite analysis of 20 ice jam events during 1981–2019 illustrates that 19 of 20 events were preceded by environments characterized by ARs along the U.S. East Coast and occur in association with a composite corridor of enhanced integrated water vapor > 25 mm collocated with integrated water vapor transport magnitudes > 600 kg m−1 s−1. Additional analyses suggest that most ice jams on the Pemigewasset River share many common synoptic-scale antecedent meteorological characteristics that may provide situational awareness for future events.

© 2020 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: Jason M. Cordeira, j_cordeira@plymouth.edu

Abstract

Ice jams that occurred on the Pemigewasset River in central New Hampshire resulted in significant localized flooding on 26 February 2017 and 13 January 2018. Analyses of these two case studies shows that both ice jam events occurred in association with enhanced moisture transport characteristic of atmospheric rivers (ARs) that resulted in rain-on-snow, snowpack ablation, and rapid increases in streamflow across central New Hampshire. However, while the ice jams and ARs that preceded them were similar, the antecedent hydrometeorological characteristics of the region were different. The February 2017 event featured a “long melting period with low precipitation” scenario, with several days of warm (~5°–20°C) maximum surface temperatures that resulted in extensive snowmelt followed by short-duration, weak AR that produced ~10–15 mm of precipitation during a 6-h period prior to the formation of the ice jam. Alternatively, the January 2018 event featured a “short melting period with high precipitation” scenario with snowmelt that occurred primarily during a more intense and long-duration AR that produced >50 mm of rainfall during a 30-h period prior to the formation of the ice jam. Composite analysis of 20 ice jam events during 1981–2019 illustrates that 19 of 20 events were preceded by environments characterized by ARs along the U.S. East Coast and occur in association with a composite corridor of enhanced integrated water vapor > 25 mm collocated with integrated water vapor transport magnitudes > 600 kg m−1 s−1. Additional analyses suggest that most ice jams on the Pemigewasset River share many common synoptic-scale antecedent meteorological characteristics that may provide situational awareness for future events.

© 2020 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: Jason M. Cordeira, j_cordeira@plymouth.edu
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