Predecessor Rain Events ahead of Tropical Cyclones

Thomas J. Galarneau Jr. Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, University at Albany, State University of New York, Albany, New York

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Lance F. Bosart Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, University at Albany, State University of New York, Albany, New York

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Russ S. Schumacher Department of Atmospheric Sciences, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas

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Abstract

Twenty-eight predecessor rain events (PREs) that occurred over the United States east of the Rockies during 1995–2008 are examined from a synoptic climatology and case study perspective. PREs are coherent mesoscale regions of heavy rainfall, with rainfall rates ≥100 mm (24 h)−1, that can occur approximately 1000 km poleward of recurving tropical cyclones (TCs). PREs occur most commonly in August and September, and approximately 36 h prior to the arrival of the main rain shield associated with the TC. A distinguishing feature of PREs is that they are sustained by deep tropical moisture that is transported poleward directly from the TC. PREs are high-impact weather events that can often result in significant inland flooding, either from the PRE itself or from the subsequent arrival of the main rain shield associated with the TC that falls onto soils already saturated by the PRE.

The composite analysis shows that on the synoptic-scale, PREs form in the equatorward jet-entrance region of a 200-hPa jet on the western flank of a 925-hPa equivalent potential temperature ridge located east of a 700-hPa trough. On the mesoscale, PREs occur in conjunction with low-level frontogenetical forcing along a baroclinic zone where heavy rainfall is focused. A case study analysis was conducted of a PRE ahead of TC Erin (2007) that produced record-breaking rainfall (>250 mm) from southern Minnesota to Lake Michigan. This analysis highlighted the importance of frontogenetical forcing along a low-level baroclinic zone in the presence of deep tropical moisture from TC Erin in producing a long-lived, quasi-stationary mesoscale convective system.

Corresponding author address: Thomas J. Galarneau Jr., Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, University at Albany, State University of New York, ES-351, 1400 Washington Ave., Albany, NY 12222. Email: tomjr@atmos.albany.edu

Abstract

Twenty-eight predecessor rain events (PREs) that occurred over the United States east of the Rockies during 1995–2008 are examined from a synoptic climatology and case study perspective. PREs are coherent mesoscale regions of heavy rainfall, with rainfall rates ≥100 mm (24 h)−1, that can occur approximately 1000 km poleward of recurving tropical cyclones (TCs). PREs occur most commonly in August and September, and approximately 36 h prior to the arrival of the main rain shield associated with the TC. A distinguishing feature of PREs is that they are sustained by deep tropical moisture that is transported poleward directly from the TC. PREs are high-impact weather events that can often result in significant inland flooding, either from the PRE itself or from the subsequent arrival of the main rain shield associated with the TC that falls onto soils already saturated by the PRE.

The composite analysis shows that on the synoptic-scale, PREs form in the equatorward jet-entrance region of a 200-hPa jet on the western flank of a 925-hPa equivalent potential temperature ridge located east of a 700-hPa trough. On the mesoscale, PREs occur in conjunction with low-level frontogenetical forcing along a baroclinic zone where heavy rainfall is focused. A case study analysis was conducted of a PRE ahead of TC Erin (2007) that produced record-breaking rainfall (>250 mm) from southern Minnesota to Lake Michigan. This analysis highlighted the importance of frontogenetical forcing along a low-level baroclinic zone in the presence of deep tropical moisture from TC Erin in producing a long-lived, quasi-stationary mesoscale convective system.

Corresponding author address: Thomas J. Galarneau Jr., Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, University at Albany, State University of New York, ES-351, 1400 Washington Ave., Albany, NY 12222. Email: tomjr@atmos.albany.edu

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