Variations in Flash Flood-Producing Storm Characteristics Associated with Changes in Vertical Velocity in a Future Climate in the Mississippi River Basin

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  • * Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO
  • + National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO
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Abstract

The Mississippi River Basin (MRB) is a flash flood hotspot receiving the most frequent flash floods and highest average rainfall accumulation of any region in the United States. Given the destruction flash floods cause in the current climate in the MRB, it is critical to understand how they will change in a future, warmer climate in order to prepare for these impacts. Recent work utilizing convection-permitting climate simulations to analyze future precipitation changes in flash flood-producing storms in the United States shows that the MRB experiences the greatest future increase in flash flood rainfall. This result motivates the goal of the present study to better understand the changes to precipitation characteristics and vertical velocity in flash flood-producing storms in the MRB. Specifically, the variations in flash flood-producing storm characteristics related to changes in vertical velocity in the MRB are examined by identifying 484 historical flash flood-producing storms from 2002–2013 and studying how they change in a future climate using 4-km convection-permitting simulations under a pseudo-global warming framework. In a future climate, precipitation and runoff increase by 17% and 32%, respectively, in flash flood-producing storms in the MRB. While rainfall increases in all flash flood-producing storms due to similar increases in moisture, it increases the most in storms with the strongest vertical velocity, suggesting that storm dynamics might modulate future changes in rainfall. These results are necessary to predict and prepare for the multifaceted impacts of climate change on flash flood-producing storms in order to create more resilient communities.

Corresponding Author: Erin Dougherty, Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO/ National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO. Email address: doughert@ucar.edu, Phone number: (970) 491-8682, Fax number: (970) 491-8449

Abstract

The Mississippi River Basin (MRB) is a flash flood hotspot receiving the most frequent flash floods and highest average rainfall accumulation of any region in the United States. Given the destruction flash floods cause in the current climate in the MRB, it is critical to understand how they will change in a future, warmer climate in order to prepare for these impacts. Recent work utilizing convection-permitting climate simulations to analyze future precipitation changes in flash flood-producing storms in the United States shows that the MRB experiences the greatest future increase in flash flood rainfall. This result motivates the goal of the present study to better understand the changes to precipitation characteristics and vertical velocity in flash flood-producing storms in the MRB. Specifically, the variations in flash flood-producing storm characteristics related to changes in vertical velocity in the MRB are examined by identifying 484 historical flash flood-producing storms from 2002–2013 and studying how they change in a future climate using 4-km convection-permitting simulations under a pseudo-global warming framework. In a future climate, precipitation and runoff increase by 17% and 32%, respectively, in flash flood-producing storms in the MRB. While rainfall increases in all flash flood-producing storms due to similar increases in moisture, it increases the most in storms with the strongest vertical velocity, suggesting that storm dynamics might modulate future changes in rainfall. These results are necessary to predict and prepare for the multifaceted impacts of climate change on flash flood-producing storms in order to create more resilient communities.

Corresponding Author: Erin Dougherty, Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO/ National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO. Email address: doughert@ucar.edu, Phone number: (970) 491-8682, Fax number: (970) 491-8449
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