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Laurie Agel, Mathew Barlow, Jian-Hua Qian, Frank Colby, Ellen Douglas, and Timothy Eichler

Abstract

This study examines U.S. Northeast daily precipitation and extreme precipitation characteristics for the 1979–2008 period, focusing on daily station data. Seasonal and spatial distribution, time scale, and relation to large-scale factors are examined. Both parametric and nonparametric extreme definitions are considered, and the top 1% of wet days is chosen as a balance between sample size and emphasis on tail distribution. The seasonal cycle of daily precipitation exhibits two distinct subregions: inland stations characterized by frequent precipitation that peaks in summer and coastal stations characterized by less frequent but more intense precipitation that peaks in late spring as well as early fall. For both subregions, the frequency of extreme precipitation is greatest in the warm season, while the intensity of extreme precipitation shows no distinct seasonal cycle. The majority of Northeast precipitation occurs as isolated 1-day events, while most extreme precipitation occurs on a single day embedded in 2–5-day precipitation events. On these extreme days, examination of hourly data shows that 3 h or less account for approximately 50% of daily accumulation. Northeast station precipitation extremes are not particularly spatially cohesive: over 50% of extreme events occur at single stations only, and 90% occur at only 1–3 stations concurrently. The majority of extreme days (75%–100%) are related to extratropical storms, except during September, when more than 50% of extremes are related to tropical storms. Storm tracks on extreme days are farther southwest and more clustered than for all storm-related precipitation days.

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Laurie Agel, Mathew Barlow, Mathias J. Collins, Ellen Douglas, and Paul Kirshen

Abstract

Hydrometeorological links to high streamflow events (HSFEs), 1950–2014, for the Mystic and Charles watersheds in the Metro Boston region of Massachusetts are examined. HSFEs are defined as one or more continuous days of streamflow above the mean annual maxima for a selected gauge in each basin. There are notable differences in the HSFEs for these two basins. HSFEs last from 1 to 3 days in the Mystic basin, while HSFEs for the Charles can last from 3 to 9 days. The majority of Mystic HSFEs are immediately preceded by extreme precipitation (occurring within 24 h), while only half of those for the Charles are preceded by extreme precipitation (in this case occurring 2–5 days earlier). While extreme precipitation events are often linked to HSFEs, other factors are often necessary in generating high streamflow, particularly for the Charles, as more than 50% of HSFEs occur at times when streamflow, soil moisture, and total precipitation are statistically above average for a period of at least 2 weeks before the HSFE. Approximately 52% and 80% of HSFEs occur from February to June for the Mystic and Charles, respectively, and these HSFEs are frequently linked to the passage of strong coastal lows, which produce extreme precipitation in the form of both rain and snow. For these coastal lows, Mystic HSFEs are linked to a strong moisture feed along the Massachusetts coastline and intense precipitation, while Charles HSFEs are linked to strong cyclones located off the Mid-Atlantic and longer-duration precipitation.

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