Climatology and Environmental Characteristics of Extreme Precipitation Events in the Southeastern United States

Benjamin J. Moore Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado Boulder, and Physical Sciences Division, NOAA/Earth System Research Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado

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Kelly M. Mahoney Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado Boulder, and Physical Sciences Division, NOAA/Earth System Research Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado

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Ellen M. Sukovich Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado Boulder, and Physical Sciences Division, NOAA/Earth System Research Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado

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Robert Cifelli Physical Sciences Division, NOAA/Earth System Research Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado

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Thomas M. Hamill Physical Sciences Division, NOAA/Earth System Research Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado

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Abstract

This paper documents the characteristics of extreme precipitation events (EPEs) in the southeastern United States (SEUS) during 2002–11. The EPEs are identified by applying an object-based method to 24-h precipitation analyses from the NCEP stage-IV dataset. It is found that EPEs affected the SEUS in all months and occurred most frequently in the western portion of the SEUS during the cool season and in the eastern portion during the warm season. The EPEs associated with tropical cyclones, although less common, tended to be larger in size, more intense, and longer lived than “nontropical” EPEs. Nontropical EPEs in the warm season, relative to those in the cool season, tended to be smaller in size and typically involved more moist, conditionally unstable conditions but weaker dynamical influences. Synoptic-scale composites are constructed for nontropical EPEs stratified by the magnitude of vertically integrated water vapor transport (IVT) to examine distinct scenarios for the occurrence of EPEs. The composite results indicate that “strong IVT” EPEs occur within high-amplitude flow patterns involving strong transport of moist, conditionally unstable air within the warm sector of a cyclone, whereas “weak IVT” EPEs occur within low-amplitude flow patterns featuring weak transport but very moist and conditionally unstable conditions. Finally, verification of deterministic precipitation forecasts from a reforecast dataset based on the NCEP Global Ensemble Forecast System reveals that weak-IVT EPEs were characteristically associated with lower forecast skill than strong-IVT EPEs. Based on these results, it is suggested that further research should be conducted to investigate the forecast challenges associated with EPEs in the SEUS.

Current affiliation: Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, University at Albany, State University of New York, Albany, New York.

Corresponding author address: Benjamin J. Moore, Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, University at Albany, State University of New York, 1400 Washington Ave., Albany, NY 12208. E-mail: bjmoore@albany.edu

Abstract

This paper documents the characteristics of extreme precipitation events (EPEs) in the southeastern United States (SEUS) during 2002–11. The EPEs are identified by applying an object-based method to 24-h precipitation analyses from the NCEP stage-IV dataset. It is found that EPEs affected the SEUS in all months and occurred most frequently in the western portion of the SEUS during the cool season and in the eastern portion during the warm season. The EPEs associated with tropical cyclones, although less common, tended to be larger in size, more intense, and longer lived than “nontropical” EPEs. Nontropical EPEs in the warm season, relative to those in the cool season, tended to be smaller in size and typically involved more moist, conditionally unstable conditions but weaker dynamical influences. Synoptic-scale composites are constructed for nontropical EPEs stratified by the magnitude of vertically integrated water vapor transport (IVT) to examine distinct scenarios for the occurrence of EPEs. The composite results indicate that “strong IVT” EPEs occur within high-amplitude flow patterns involving strong transport of moist, conditionally unstable air within the warm sector of a cyclone, whereas “weak IVT” EPEs occur within low-amplitude flow patterns featuring weak transport but very moist and conditionally unstable conditions. Finally, verification of deterministic precipitation forecasts from a reforecast dataset based on the NCEP Global Ensemble Forecast System reveals that weak-IVT EPEs were characteristically associated with lower forecast skill than strong-IVT EPEs. Based on these results, it is suggested that further research should be conducted to investigate the forecast challenges associated with EPEs in the SEUS.

Current affiliation: Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, University at Albany, State University of New York, Albany, New York.

Corresponding author address: Benjamin J. Moore, Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, University at Albany, State University of New York, 1400 Washington Ave., Albany, NY 12208. E-mail: bjmoore@albany.edu
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