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Galateia Terti
,
Isabelle Ruin
,
Sandrine Anquetin
, and
Jonathan J. Gourley

Abstract

This paper investigates the circumstances of 1,075 fatalities from flash flooding recorded from 1996 to 2014 across the United States. This study provides insights into the situations of the fatality events as determined by the victims’ profile and activity and the spatiotemporal context of the flooding. A reclassification of the individual fatality circumstance (i.e., location and/or activity) is performed to explore statistically the timing, the duration, and location of the flash flood event and the age and gender of the victims. In agreement with other studies, more than 60% of the reported fatalities were related to vehicles involving mainly males. A geospatial analysis indicated these were most common in southern states. Further, 21% of fatalities occurred outdoors, typically in neighborhoods near streams, where the victims were exhibiting high-risk-taking behavior, such as cleaning out drains and even playing in the floodwaters. Human vulnerability varies dynamically on a subdaily basis and depends on social and natural factors of the flash flood. For example, most campsite-related fatalities were associated with very fast-responding flash flood events (less than 5-h duration), occurred more commonly after midnight, and impacted younger females and males alike. On the other hand, fatalities related to inundation of permanent buildings were most commonly associated with longer-duration events and impacted the elderly. Situational rather than generic examination of vulnerability is required to realistically capture risky cases during short-fuse flood events.

The circumstances in which people perished in flash floods suggest that situational rather than generic examination of vulnerability is required to realistically capture risky cases during short-fuse flood events.

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Kenneth W. Howard
,
Jonathan J. Gourley
, and
Robert A. Maddox

Abstract

Radar measurement uncertainties associated with storm top, cloud top, and other height measurements are well recognized; however, the authors feel the resulting impacts on the trends of storm features are not as well documented or understood by some users of the WSR-88D system. Detailed examination of radar-measured life cycles of thunderstorms occurring in Arizona indicates substantial limitations in the WSR-88D’s capability to depict certain aspects of storm-height attribute evolution (i.e., life cycle) accurately. These inherent limitations are illustrated using a vertical reflectivity structure model for the life cycle of a simple, “single-pulse” thunderstorm. The life cycle of this simple storm is “scanned” at varying ranges and translation speeds. The results show that radar-determined trends are often substantially different from those of the model storm and that in extreme cases the radar-detected storm and the model storm can have trends in storm-top height of opposite sign. Caution is clearly required by both the operational and research users of some products derived from operational WSR-88D data.

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Jonathan J. Gourley
,
Pierre Tabary
, and
Jacques Parent du Chatelet

Abstract

The French operational radar network is being upgraded and expanded from 2002 to 2006 by Meteo-France in partnership with the French Ministry of the Environment. A detailed examination of the quality of the raw polarimetric variables is reported here. The analysis procedures determine the precision of the measurements and quantify errors resulting from miscalibration, near-radome interference, and noise effects. Correction methods to remove biases resulting from effective noise powers in the horizontal and vertical channels, radar miscalibration, and the system offset in differential propagation phase measurements are presented and evaluated. Filtering methods were also required in order to remove azimuthal dependencies discovered with fields of differential reflectivity and differential propagation phase. The developed data quality analysis procedures may be useful to the agencies that are in the process of upgrading their radar networks with dual-polarization capabilities.

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Yagmur Derin
,
Pierre-Emmanuel Kirstetter
, and
Jonathan J. Gourley

Abstract

As a fundamental water flux, quantitative understanding of precipitation is important to understand and manage water systems under a changing climate, especially in transition regions such as the coastal interface between land and ocean. This work aims to assess the uncertainty in precipitation detection over the land–coast–ocean continuum in the Integrated Multisatellite Retrievals for Global Precipitation Measurement (IMERG) V06B product. It is examined over three coastal regions of the United States—the West Coast, the Gulf of Mexico, and the East Coast, all of which are characterized by different topographies and precipitation climatologies. Detection capabilities are contrasted over different surfaces (land, coast, and ocean). A novel and integrated approach traces the IMERG detection performance back to its components (passive microwave, infrared, and morphing-based estimates). The analysis is performed by using high-resolution, high-quality Ground Validation Multi-Radar/Multi-Sensor (GV-MRMS) rainfall estimates as ground reference. The best detection performances are reported with PMW estimates (hit rates in the range [25%–39%]), followed by morphing ([20%–34%]), morphing+IR ([17%–27%]) and IR ([11%–16%]) estimates. Precipitation formation mechanisms play an important role, especially in the West Coast where orographic processes challenge detection. Further, precipitation typology is shown to be a strong driver of IMERG detection. Over the ocean, IMERG detection is generally better but suffers from false alarms ([10%–53%]). Overall, IMERG displays nonhomogeneous precipitation detection capabilities tracing back to its components. Results point toward a similar behavior across various land–coast–ocean continuum regions of the CONUS, which suggests that results can be potentially transferred to other coastal regions of the world.

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Jonathan J. Gourley
,
Pierre Tabary
, and
Jacques Parent du Chatelet

Abstract

A polarimetric method is devised to correct for attenuation effects at C band on reflectivity ZH and differential reflectivity Z DR measurements. An operational cross-correlation analysis is used to derive advection vectors and to displace echoes over a 5-min time step. These advected echoes are then compared with observations valid at the same time. The method assumes that the mean change in the intrinsic ZH and Z DR over a 5-min period when considering 1–2 h of observations over the entire radar umbrella is approximately zero. Correction coefficients are retrieved through the minimization of a cost function that links observed decreases in ZH and Z DR due to attenuation effects with increases in differential phase shift (ΦDP). The retrieved coefficients are consistent with published values for the typical ranges of temperatures and drop sizes encountered at midlatitudes, even when Mie scattering effects are present. Measurements of ZH and Z DR corrected using retrieved coefficients are compared with raw measurements and to measurements adjusted by mean coefficients found in the literature. The empirical retrieval method shows improvement over using mean correction coefficients based on comparisons of ZH from neighboring, unattenuated radars, disdrometer measurements, and analysis of ZH and Z DR as a function of ΦDP.

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Katja Friedrich
,
Urs Germann
,
Jonathan J. Gourley
, and
Pierre Tabary

Abstract

Radar reflectivity (Z h), differential reflectivity (Z dr), and specific differential phase (K dp) measured from the operational, polarimetric weather radar located in Trappes, France, were used to examine the effects of radar beam shielding on rainfall estimation. The objective of this study is to investigate the degree of immunity of K dp-based rainfall estimates to beam shielding for C-band radar data during four typical rain events encountered in Europe. The rain events include two cold frontal rainbands with average rainfall rates of 7 and 17 mm h−1, respectively, and two summertime convective rain events with average rainfall rates of 11 and 22 mm h−1.

The large effects of beam shielding on rainfall accumulation were observed for algorithms using Z h and Z dr with differences of up to ∼2 dB (40%) compared to a K dp-based algorithm over a power loss range of 0–8 dB. This analysis reveals that Z dr and K dp are not affected by partial beam shielding. Standard reflectivity corrections based on the degree of beam shielding would have overestimated rainfall rates by up to 1.5 dB for less than 40% beam shielding and up to 3 dB for beam shielding less than 75%. The investigation also examined the sensitivity of beam shielding effects on rainfall rate estimation to (i) axis–ratio parameterization and drop size distribution, (ii) methods used to smooth profiles of differential propagation phase (ϕ dp) and estimate K dp, and (iii) event-to-event variability. Although rainfall estimates were sensitive to drop size distribution and axis–ratio parameterization, differences between Z h- and K dp-based rainfall rates increased independently from those parameters with amount of shielding. Different approaches to smoothing ϕ dp profiles and estimating K dp were examined and showed little impact on results.

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Heather M. Grams
,
Pierre-Emmanuel Kirstetter
, and
Jonathan J. Gourley

Abstract

Satellite-based precipitation estimates are a vital resource for hydrologic applications in data-sparse regions of the world, particularly at daily or longer time scales. With the launch of a new generation of high-resolution imagers on geostationary platforms such as the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite series R (GOES-R), an opportunity exists to advance the detection and estimation of flash-flood-scale precipitation events from space beyond what is currently available. Because visible and infrared sensors can only observe cloud-top properties, many visible- and infrared-band-based rainfall algorithms attempt to first classify clouds before deriving a rain rate. This study uses a 2-yr database of cloud-top properties from proxy Advanced Baseline Imager radiances from GOES-R matched to surface precipitation types from the Multi-Radar Multi-Sensor (MRMS) system to develop a naïve Bayesian precipitation type classifier for the four major types of precipitation in MRMS: stratiform, convective, tropical, and hail. Evaluation of the naïve Bayesian precipitation type product showed a bias toward classifying convective and stratiform at the expense of tropical and hail. The tropical and hail classes in MRMS are derived based on the vertical structure and magnitude of radar reflectivity, which may not translate to an obvious signal at cloud top for a satellite-based algorithm. However, the satellite-based product correctly classified the hail areas as being convective in nature for the vast majority of missed hail events.

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Jessica M. Erlingis
,
Jonathan J. Gourley
, and
Jeffrey B. Basara

Abstract

This study uses backward trajectories derived from North American Regional Reanalysis data for 19 253 flash flood reports during the period 2007–13 published by the National Weather Service to assess the origins of air parcels for flash floods in the conterminous United States. The preferred flow paths for parcels were evaluated seasonally and for six regions of interest: the West Coast, Arizona, the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, Flash Flood Alley in south-central Texas, the Missouri Valley, and the Appalachians. Parcels were released from vertical columns in the atmosphere at times and locations where there were reported flash floods; these were traced backward in time for 5 days. The temporal and seasonal cycles of flood events in these regions are also explored. The results show the importance of trajectories residing for long periods over oceanic regions such as the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. The flow is generally unidirectional with height in the lower layers of the atmosphere. The trajectory paths from oceanic genesis regions to inland hotspots and their orientation with height provide clues that can assist in the diagnosis of impending flash floods. Part II of this manuscript details the land–atmosphere interactions along the trajectory paths.

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Jonathan J. Gourley
,
Pierre Tabary
, and
Jacques Parent du Chatelet

Abstract

A fuzzy logic algorithm has been developed for the purpose of segregating precipitating from nonprecipitating echoes using polarimetric radar observations at C band. Adequate polarimetric descriptions for each type of scatterer are required for the algorithm to be effective. An observations-based approach is presented in this study to derive membership functions and objectively weight them so that they apply directly to conditions experienced at the radar site and to the radar wavelength. Three case studies are examined and show that the algorithm successfully removes nonprecipitating echoes from rainfall accumulation maps.

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Jessica M. Erlingis
,
Jonathan J. Gourley
, and
Jeffrey B. Basara

Abstract

Backward trajectories were derived from North American Regional Reanalysis data for 19 253 flash flood reports published by the National Weather Service to determine the along-path contribution of the land surface to the moisture budget for flash flood events in the conterminous United States. The impact of land surface interactions was evaluated seasonally and for six regions: the West Coast, Arizona, the Front Range, Flash Flood Alley, the Missouri Valley, and the Appalachians. Parcels were released from locations that were impacted by flash floods and traced backward in time for 120 h. The boundary layer height was used to determine whether moisture increases occurred within the boundary layer or above it. Moisture increases occurring within the boundary layer were attributed to evapotranspiration from the land surface, and surface properties were recorded from an offline run of the Noah land surface model. In general, moisture increases attributed to the land surface were associated with anomalously high surface latent heat fluxes and anomalously low sensible heat fluxes (resulting in a positive anomaly of evaporative fraction) as well as positive anomalies in top-layer soil moisture. Over the ocean, uptakes were associated with positive anomalies in sea surface temperatures, the magnitude of which varies both regionally and seasonally. Major oceanic surface-based source regions of moisture for flash floods in the United States include the Gulf of Mexico and the Gulf of California, while boundary layer moisture increases in the southern plains are attributable in part to interactions between the land surface and the atmosphere.

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