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Kimberley J. Reid
,
Andrew D. King
,
Todd P. Lane
, and
Debra Hudson

Abstract

Studies of atmospheric rivers (ARs) over Australia have, so far, only focused on northwest cloudband–type weather systems. Here we perform a comprehensive analysis of AR climatology and impacts over Australia that includes not only northwesterly systems, but easterly and extratropical ARs also. We quantify the impact of ARs on mean and extreme rainfall including assessing how the origin location of ARs can alter their precipitation outcomes. We found a strong relationship between ARs and extreme rainfall in the agriculturally significant Murray–Daring basin region. We test the hypothesis that the tropical and subtropical originating ARs we observe in Australasia differ from canonical extratropical ARs by examining the vertical structure of ARs grouped by origin location. We found that in the moisture abundant tropics and subtropics, wind speed drives the intensity of ARs, while in the extratropics, the strength of an AR is largely determined by moisture availability. Finally, we examine the modulation of AR frequency by different climate modes. We find weak (but occasionally significant) correlations between ARs frequency and El Niño–Southern Oscillation, the Indian Ocean dipole, and the southern annular mode. However, there is a stronger relationship between the phases of the Madden–Julian oscillation and tropical AR frequency, which is an avenue for potential skill in forecasting ARs on subseasonal time scales.

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