Use of Normalized Anomaly Fields to Anticipate Extreme Rainfall in the Mountains of Northern California

Norman W. Junker NOAA/NCEP/Hydrometeorological Prediction Center/I. M. Systems Group, Camp Springs, Maryland

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Richard H. Grumm NWS, State College, Pennsylvania

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Robert Hart Department of Meteorology, The Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida

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Lance F. Bosart Department of Earth and Atmospheric Science, The University at Albany, State University of New York, Albany, New York

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Katherine M. Bell NOAA/NCEP/Ocean Prediction Center, Camp Springs, Maryland

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Frank J. Pereira NOAA/NCEP/Hydrometeorological Prediction Center, Camp Springs, Maryland

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Abstract

Extreme rainfall events contribute a large portion of wintertime precipitation to northern California. The motivations of this paper were to study the observed differences in the patterns between extreme and more commonly occurring lighter rainfall events, and to study whether anomaly fields might be used to discriminate between them. Daily (1200–1200 UTC) precipitation amounts were binned into three progressively heavier categories (12.5–50.0 mm, light; 50–100 mm, moderate; and >100 mm, heavy) in order to help identify the physical processes responsible for extreme precipitation in the Sierra Nevada range between 37.5° and 41.0°N.

The composite fields revealed marked differences between the synoptic patterns associated with the three different groups. The heavy composites showed a much stronger, larger-scale, and slower-moving negative geopotential height anomaly off the Pacific coast of Oregon and Washington than was revealed in either of the other two composites. The heavy rainfall events were also typically associated with an atmospheric river with anomalously high precipitable water (PW) and 850-hPa moisture flux (MF) within it. The standardized PW and MF anomalies associated with the heavy grouping were higher and were slower moving than in either of the lighter bins.

Three multiday heavy rainfall events were closely examined in order to ascertain whether anomaly patterns could provide forecast utility. Each of the multiday extreme rainfall events investigated was associated with atmospheric rivers that contained highly anomalous 850-hPa MF and PW within it. Each case was also associated with an unusually intense negative geopotential height anomaly that was similarly located off of the west coast of the United States. The similarities in the anomaly pattern among the three multiday extreme events suggest that standardized anomalies might be useful in predicting extreme multiday rainfall events in the northern Sierra range.

Corresponding author address: Norman W. Junker, NOAA Science Center, Hydrometeorological Prediction Center, Rm. 410, 5200 Auth Rd., Camp Springs, MD 20746. Email: norman.w.junker@noaa.gov

Abstract

Extreme rainfall events contribute a large portion of wintertime precipitation to northern California. The motivations of this paper were to study the observed differences in the patterns between extreme and more commonly occurring lighter rainfall events, and to study whether anomaly fields might be used to discriminate between them. Daily (1200–1200 UTC) precipitation amounts were binned into three progressively heavier categories (12.5–50.0 mm, light; 50–100 mm, moderate; and >100 mm, heavy) in order to help identify the physical processes responsible for extreme precipitation in the Sierra Nevada range between 37.5° and 41.0°N.

The composite fields revealed marked differences between the synoptic patterns associated with the three different groups. The heavy composites showed a much stronger, larger-scale, and slower-moving negative geopotential height anomaly off the Pacific coast of Oregon and Washington than was revealed in either of the other two composites. The heavy rainfall events were also typically associated with an atmospheric river with anomalously high precipitable water (PW) and 850-hPa moisture flux (MF) within it. The standardized PW and MF anomalies associated with the heavy grouping were higher and were slower moving than in either of the lighter bins.

Three multiday heavy rainfall events were closely examined in order to ascertain whether anomaly patterns could provide forecast utility. Each of the multiday extreme rainfall events investigated was associated with atmospheric rivers that contained highly anomalous 850-hPa MF and PW within it. Each case was also associated with an unusually intense negative geopotential height anomaly that was similarly located off of the west coast of the United States. The similarities in the anomaly pattern among the three multiday extreme events suggest that standardized anomalies might be useful in predicting extreme multiday rainfall events in the northern Sierra range.

Corresponding author address: Norman W. Junker, NOAA Science Center, Hydrometeorological Prediction Center, Rm. 410, 5200 Auth Rd., Camp Springs, MD 20746. Email: norman.w.junker@noaa.gov

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