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Amanda Schroeder, Jeffrey Basara, J. Marshall Shepherd, and Steven Nelson

Abstract

Flooding is routinely one of the most deadly weather-related hazards in the United States, which highlights the need for more hydrometeorological research related to forecasting these hazardous events. Building upon previous literature, a synergistic study analyzes hydrometeorological aspects of major urban flood events in the United States from 1977 through 2014 caused by locally heavy precipitation. Primary datasets include upper-air soundings and climatological precipitable water (PW) distributions. A major finding of this work is that major urban flood events are associated with extremely anomalous PW values, many of which exceeded the 99th percentile of the associated climatological dataset and all of which were greater than 150% of the climatological mean values. However, of the 40 cases examined in this study, only 15 had PW values that exceeded 50.4 mm (2 in.), illustrating the importance of including the location-specific PW climatology in a PW analysis relevant to the potential for flash floods. Additionally, these events revealed that, despite geographic location and time of year, most had a warm cloud depth of at least 6 km, which is defined here as the layer between the lifting condensation level and the height of the −10°C level. A “composite” flood sounding was also calculated and revealed a characteristically tropical structure, despite cases related to tropical cyclones being excluded from the study.

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