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Bin Guan, Duane E. Waliser, and F. Martin Ralph


A recent study presented nearly two decades of airborne atmospheric river (AR) observations and concluded that, on average, an individual AR transports ~5 × 108 kg s−1 of water vapor. The study here compares those cases to ARs independently identified in reanalyses based on a refined algorithm that can detect less well-structured ARs, with the dual-purpose of validating reanalysis ARs against observations and evaluating dropsonde representativeness relative to reanalyses. The first comparison is based on 21 dropsonde-observed ARs in the northeastern Pacific and those closely matched, but not required to be exactly collocated, in ERA-Interim (MERRA-2), which indicates a mean error of −2% (−8%) in AR width and +3% (−1%) in total integrated water vapor transport (TIVT) and supports the effectiveness of the AR detection algorithm applied to the reanalyses. The second comparison is between the 21 dropsonde ARs and ~6000 ARs detected in ERA-Interim (MERRA-2) over the same domain, which indicates a mean difference of 5% (20%) in AR width and 5% (14%) in TIVT and suggests the limited number of dropsonde observations is a highly (reasonably) representative sampling of ARs in the northeastern Pacific. Sensitivities of the comparison to seasonal and geographical variations in AR width/TIVT are also examined. The results provide a case where dedicated observational efforts in specific regions corroborate with global reanalyses in better characterizing the geometry and strength of ARs regionally and globally. The results also illustrate that the reanalysis depiction of ARs can help inform the selection of locations for future observational and modeling efforts.

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Allison B. Marquardt Collow, Michael G. Bosilovich, and Randal D. Koster


Observations indicate that over the last few decades there has been a statistically significant increase in precipitation in the northeastern United States and that this can be attributed to an increase in precipitation associated with extreme precipitation events. Here a state-of-the-art atmospheric reanalysis is used to examine such events in detail. Daily extreme precipitation events defined at the 75th and 95th percentile from gridded gauge observations are identified for a selected region within the Northeast. Atmospheric variables from the Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications, version 2 (MERRA-2), are then composited during these events to illustrate the time evolution of associated synoptic structures, with a focus on vertically integrated water vapor fluxes, sea level pressure, and 500-hPa heights. Anomalies of these fields move into the region from the northwest, with stronger anomalies present in the 95th percentile case. Although previous studies show tropical cyclones are responsible for the most intense extreme precipitation events, only 10% of the events in this study are caused by tropical cyclones. On the other hand, extreme events resulting from cutoff low pressure systems have increased. The time period of the study was divided in half to determine how the mean composite has changed over time. An arc of lower sea level pressure along the East Coast and a change in the vertical profile of equivalent potential temperature suggest a possible increase in the frequency or intensity of synoptic-scale baroclinic disturbances.

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