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David A. Lavers and Gabriele Villarini

Abstract

This paper undertakes a hydrometeorological analysis of flood events in the central United States. Vertically integrated horizontal water vapor transport over 1979–2011 is calculated in the ECMWF Interim Re-Analysis (ERA-Interim) and used in an algorithm to identify episodes of high moisture transport, or atmospheric rivers (ARs), over the central United States. The AR events are almost evenly divided among the seasons (143 during the winter, 144 during the spring, and 124 during the fall), with a minimum (40) during the summer. The annual maxima (AM) floods from 1105 basins over the period 1980–2011 are used as a measure of the hydrologic impact of the AR events. Of these basins, 470 (or 42.5%) had more than 50% of their AM floods linked to ARs. Furthermore, 660 of the 1105 basins (59.7%) had 5 or more of their top 10 AM floods related to ARs, indicating that ARs control the upper tail of the flood peak distribution over large portions of the study area. The seasonal composite average of mean sea level pressure anomalies associated with the ARs shows a trough located over the central United States and a ridge over the U.S. East Coast, leading to southerly winds and the advection of moisture over the study region. Based on the findings of this study, ARs are a major flood agent over the central United States.

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David A. Lavers, Shaun Harrigan, and Christel Prudhomme

Abstract

Precipitation is a key component of the global water cycle and plays a crucial role in flooding, droughts, and water supply. One way to manage its socioeconomic effects is based on precipitation forecasts from numerical weather prediction (NWP) models, and an important step to improve precipitation forecasts is by diagnosing NWP biases. In this study, we investigate the biases in precipitation forecasts from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts Integrated Forecasting System (IFS). Using the IFS control forecast from 12 June 2019 to 11 June 2020 at 5219 stations globally, we show that in each of the boreal winter and summer half years, the IFS 1) has an average global wet bias and 2) displays similar bias patterns for forecasts starting at 0000 and 1200 UTC and across forecast days 1–5. These biases are dependent on observed (climatological) precipitation; stations with low observed precipitation have an IFS wet bias, while stations with high observed precipitation have an IFS dry bias. Southeast Asia has a wet bias of 1.61 mm day−1 (in boreal summer) and over the study period the precipitation is overestimated by 31.0% on forecast day 3. This is the hydrological signature of several hypothesized processes including issues specifying the IFS snowpack over the Tibetan Plateau, which may affect the mei-yu front. These biases have implications for IFS land–atmosphere feedbacks, river discharge, and for ocean circulation in the Southeast Asia region. Reducing these biases could lead to more accurate forecasts of the global water cycle.

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David A. Lavers, Ervin Zsoter, David S. Richardson, and Florian Pappenberger

Abstract

Early awareness of extreme precipitation can provide the time necessary to make adequate event preparations. At the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), one tool that condenses the forecast information from the Integrated Forecasting System ensemble (ENS) is the extreme forecast index (EFI), an index that highlights regions that are forecast to have potentially anomalous weather conditions compared to the local climate. This paper builds on previous findings by undertaking a global verification throughout the medium-range forecast horizon (out to 15 days) on the ability of the EFI for water vapor transport [integrated vapor transport (IVT)] and precipitation to capture extreme observed precipitation. Using the ECMWF ENS for winters 2015/16 and 2016/17 and daily surface precipitation observations, the relative operating characteristic is used to show that the IVT EFI is more skillful than the precipitation EFI in forecast week 2 over Europe and western North America. It is the large-scale nature of the IVT, its higher predictability, and its relationship with extreme precipitation that result in its potential usefulness in these regions, which, in turn, could provide earlier awareness of extreme precipitation. Conversely, at shorter lead times the precipitation EFI is more useful, although the IVT EFI can provide synoptic-scale understanding. For the whole globe, the extratropical Northern Hemisphere, the tropics, and North America, the precipitation EFI is more useful throughout the medium range, suggesting that precipitation processes not captured in the IVT are important (e.g., tropical convection). Following these results, the operational implementation of the IVT EFI is currently being planned.

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Huancui Hu, Francina Dominguez, Zhuo Wang, David A. Lavers, Gan Zhang, and F. Martin Ralph

Abstract

Atmospheric rivers (ARs) have significant hydrometeorological impacts on the U.S. West Coast. This study presents the connection between the characteristics of large-scale Rossby wave breaking (RWB) over the eastern North Pacific and the regional-scale hydrological impacts associated with landfalling ARs on the U.S. West Coast (36°–49°N). ARs associated with RWB account for two-thirds of the landfalling AR events and >70% of total AR-precipitation in the winter season. The two regimes of RWB—anticyclonic wave breaking (AWB) and cyclonic wave breaking (CWB)—are associated with different directions of the vertically integrated water vapor transport (IVT). AWB-ARs impinge in a more westerly direction on the coast whereas CWB-ARs impinge in a more southwesterly direction.

Most of the landfalling ARs along the northwestern coast of the United States (states of Washington and Oregon) are AWB-ARs. Because of their westerly impinging angles when compared to CWB-ARs, AWB-ARs arrive more orthogonally to the western Cascades and more efficiently transform water vapor into precipitation through orographic lift than CWB-ARs. Consequently, AWB-ARs are associated with the most extreme streamflows in the region.

Along the southwest coast of the United States (California), the southwesterly impinging angles of CWB-ARs are more orthogonal to the local topography. Furthermore, the southwest coast CWB-ARs have more intense IVT. Consequently, CWB-ARs are associated with the most intense precipitation. As a result, most of the extreme streamflows in southwest coastal basins are associated with CWB-ARs. In summary, depending on the associated RWB type, ARs impinge on the local topography at a different angle and have a different spatial signature of precipitation and streamflow.

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Michael J. DeFlorio, Duane E. Waliser, Bin Guan, David A. Lavers, F. Martin Ralph, and Frédéric Vitart

Abstract

Atmospheric rivers (ARs) are global phenomena that transport water vapor horizontally and are associated with hydrological extremes. In this study, the Atmospheric River Skill (ATRISK) algorithm is introduced, which quantifies AR prediction skill in an object-based framework using Subseasonal to Seasonal (S2S) Project global hindcast data from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) model. The dependence of AR forecast skill is globally characterized by season, lead time, and distance between observed and forecasted ARs. Mean values of daily AR prediction skill saturate around 7–10 days, and seasonal variations are highest over the Northern Hemispheric ocean basins, where AR prediction skill increases by 15%–20% at a 7-day lead during boreal winter relative to boreal summer. AR hit and false alarm rates are explicitly considered using relative operating characteristic (ROC) curves. This analysis reveals that AR forecast utility increases at 10-day lead over the North Pacific/western U.S. region during positive El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) conditions and at 7- and 10-day leads over the North Atlantic/U.K. region during negative Arctic Oscillation (AO) conditions and decreases at a 10-day lead over the North Pacific/western U.S. region during negative Pacific–North America (PNA) teleconnection conditions. Exceptionally large increases in AR forecast utility are found over the North Pacific/western United States at a 10-day lead during El Niño + positive PNA conditions and over the North Atlantic/United Kingdom at a 7-day lead during La Niña + negative PNA conditions. These results represent the first global assessment of AR prediction skill and highlight climate variability conditions that modulate regional AR forecast skill.

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Gabriele Villarini, David A. Lavers, Enrico Scoccimarro, Ming Zhao, Michael F. Wehner, Gabriel A. Vecchi, Thomas R. Knutson, and Kevin A. Reed

Abstract

Heavy rainfall and flooding associated with tropical cyclones (TCs) are responsible for a large number of fatalities and economic damage worldwide. Despite their large socioeconomic impacts, research into heavy rainfall and flooding associated with TCs has received limited attention to date and still represents a major challenge. The capability to adapt to future changes in heavy rainfall and flooding associated with TCs is inextricably linked to and informed by understanding of the sensitivity of TC rainfall to likely future forcing mechanisms. Here a set of idealized high-resolution atmospheric model experiments produced as part of the U.S. Climate Variability and Predictability (CLIVAR) Hurricane Working Group activity is used to examine TC response to idealized global-scale perturbations: the doubling of CO2, uniform 2-K increases in global sea surface temperature (SST), and their combined impact. As a preliminary but key step, daily rainfall patterns of composite TCs within climate model outputs are first compared and contrasted to the observational records. To assess similarities and differences across different regions in response to the warming scenarios, analyses are performed at the global and hemispheric scales and in six global TC ocean basins. The results indicate a reduction in TC daily precipitation rates in the doubling CO2 scenario (on the order of 5% globally) and an increase in TC rainfall rates associated with a uniform increase of 2 K in SST (both alone and in combination with CO2 doubling; on the order of 10%–20% globally).

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Rebecca E. Stone, Carolyn A. Reynolds, James D. Doyle, Rolf H. Langland, Nancy L. Baker, David A. Lavers, and F. Martin Ralph

Abstract

Atmospheric rivers, often associated with impactful weather along the west coast of North America, can be a challenge to forecast even on short time scales. This is attributed, at least in part, to the scarcity of eastern Pacific in situ observations. We examine the impact of assimilating dropsonde observations collected during the Atmospheric River (AR) Reconnaissance 2018 field program on the Navy Global Environmental Model (NAVGEM) analyses and forecasts. We compare NAVGEM’s representation of the ARs to the observations, and examine whether the observation–background difference statistics are similar to the observation error variance specified in the data assimilation system. Forecast sensitivity observation impact is determined for each dropsonde variable, and compared to the impacts of the North American radiosonde network. We find that the reconnaissance soundings have significant beneficial impact, with per observation impact more than double that of the North American radiosonde network. Temperature and wind observations have larger total and per observation impact than moisture observations. In our experiment, the 24-h global forecast error reduction from the reconnaissance soundings can be comparable to the reduction from the North American radiosonde network for the field program dates that include at least two flights.

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David A. Lavers, N. Bruce Ingleby, Aneesh C. Subramanian, David S. Richardson, F. Martin Ralph, James D. Doyle, Carolyn A. Reynolds, Ryan D. Torn, Mark J. Rodwell, Vijay Tallapragada, and Florian Pappenberger

Abstract

A key aim of observational campaigns is to sample atmosphere–ocean phenomena to improve understanding of these phenomena, and in turn, numerical weather prediction. In early 2018 and 2019, the Atmospheric River Reconnaissance (AR Recon) campaign released dropsondes and radiosondes into atmospheric rivers (ARs) over the northeast Pacific Ocean to collect unique observations of temperature, winds, and moisture in ARs. These narrow regions of water vapor transport in the atmosphere—like rivers in the sky—can be associated with extreme precipitation and flooding events in the midlatitudes. This study uses the dropsonde observations collected during the AR Recon campaign and the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) Integrated Forecasting System (IFS) to evaluate forecasts of ARs. Results show that ECMWF IFS forecasts 1) were colder than observations by up to 0.6 K throughout the troposphere; 2) have a dry bias in the lower troposphere, which along with weaker winds below 950 hPa, resulted in weaker horizontal water vapor fluxes in the 950–1000-hPa layer; and 3) exhibit an underdispersiveness in the water vapor flux that largely arises from model representativeness errors associated with dropsondes. Four U.S. West Coast radiosonde sites confirm the IFS cold bias throughout winter. These issues are likely to affect the model’s hydrological cycle and hence precipitation forecasts.

Open access
F. Martin Ralph, Forest Cannon, Vijay Tallapragada, Christopher A. Davis, James D. Doyle, Florian Pappenberger, Aneesh Subramanian, Anna M. Wilson, David A. Lavers, Carolyn A. Reynolds, Jennifer S. Haase, Luca Centurioni, Bruce Ingleby, Jonathan J. Rutz, Jason M. Cordeira, Minghua Zheng, Chad Hecht, Brian Kawzenuk, and Luca Delle Monache

Abstract

Water management and flood control are major challenges in the western United States. They are heavily influenced by atmospheric river (AR) storms that produce both beneficial water supply and hazards; for example, 84% of all flood damages in the West (up to 99% in key areas) are associated with ARs. However, AR landfall forecast position errors can exceed 200 km at even 1-day lead time and yet many watersheds are <100 km across, which contributes to issues such as the 2017 Oroville Dam spillway incident and regularly to large flood forecast errors. Combined with the rise of wildfires and deadly post-wildfire debris flows, such as Montecito (2018), the need for better AR forecasts is urgent. Atmospheric River Reconnaissance (AR Recon) was developed as a research and operations partnership to address these needs. It combines new observations, modeling, data assimilation, and forecast verification methods to improve the science and predictions of landfalling ARs. ARs over the northeast Pacific are measured using dropsondes from up to three aircraft simultaneously. Additionally, airborne radio occultation is being tested, and drifting buoys with pressure sensors are deployed. AR targeting and data collection methods have been developed, assimilation and forecast impact experiments are ongoing, and better understanding of AR dynamics is emerging. AR Recon is led by the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes and NWS/NCEP. The effort’s core partners include the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, NCAR, ECMWF, and multiple academic institutions. AR Recon is included in the “National Winter Season Operations Plan” to support improved outcomes for emergency preparedness and water management in the West.

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Robert J. H. Dunn, F. Aldred, Nadine Gobron, John B. Miller, Kate M. Willett, M. Ades, Robert Adler, Richard, P. Allan, Rob Allan, J. Anderson, Anthony Argüez, C. Arosio, John A. Augustine, C. Azorin-Molina, J. Barichivich, H. E. Beck, Andreas Becker, Nicolas Bellouin, Angela Benedetti, David I. Berry, Stephen Blenkinsop, Olivier Bock, X. Bodin, Michael G. Bosilovich, Olivier Boucher, S. A. Buehler, B. Calmettes, Laura Carrea, Laura Castia, Hanne H. Christiansen, John R. Christy, E.-S. Chung, Melanie Coldewey-Egbers, Owen R. Cooper, Richard C. Cornes, Curt Covey, J.-F. Cretaux, M. Crotwell, Sean M. Davis, Richard A. M. de Jeu, Doug Degenstein, R. Delaloye, Larry Di Girolamo, Markus G. Donat, Wouter A. Dorigo, Imke Durre, Geoff S. Dutton, Gregory Duveiller, James W. Elkins, Vitali E. Fioletov, Johannes Flemming, Michael J. Foster, Stacey M. Frith, Lucien Froidevaux, J. Garforth, Matthew Gentry, S. K. Gupta, S. Hahn, Leopold Haimberger, Brad D. Hall, Ian Harris, D. L. Hemming, M. Hirschi, Ho Shu-pen (Ben), F. Hrbacek, Daan Hubert, Dale F. Hurst, Antje Inness, K. Isaksen, Viju O. John, Philip D. Jones, Robert Junod, J. W. Kaiser, V. Kaufmann, A. Kellerer-Pirklbauer, Elizabeth C. Kent, R. Kidd, Hyungjun Kim, Z. Kipling, A. Koppa, B. M. Kraemer, D. P. Kratz, Xin Lan, Kathleen O. Lantz, D. Lavers, Norman G. Loeb, Diego Loyola, R. Madelon, Michael Mayer, M. F. McCabe, Tim R. McVicar, Carl A. Mears, Christopher J. Merchant, Diego G. Miralles, L. Moesinger, Stephen A. Montzka, Colin Morice, L. Mösinger, Jens Mühle, Julien P. Nicolas, Jeannette Noetzli, Ben Noll, J. O’Keefe, Tim J. Osborn, T. Park, A. J. Pasik, C. Pellet, Maury S. Pelto, S. E. Perkins-Kirkpatrick, G. Petron, Coda Phillips, S. Po-Chedley, L. Polvani, W. Preimesberger, D. G. Rains, W. J. Randel, Nick A. Rayner, Samuel Rémy, L. Ricciardulli, A. D. Richardson, David A. Robinson, Matthew Rodell, N. J. Rodríguez-Fernández, K.H. Rosenlof, C. Roth, A. Rozanov, T. Rutishäuser, Ahira Sánchez-Lugo, P. Sawaengphokhai, T. Scanlon, Verena Schenzinger, R. W. Schlegel, S. Sharma, Lei Shi, Adrian J. Simmons, Carolina Siso, Sharon L. Smith, B. J. Soden, Viktoria Sofieva, T. H. Sparks, Paul W. Stackhouse Jr., Wolfgang Steinbrecht, Martin Stengel, Dimitri A. Streletskiy, Sunny Sun-Mack, P. Tans, S. J. Thackeray, E. Thibert, D. Tokuda, Kleareti Tourpali, Mari R. Tye, Ronald van der A, Robin van der Schalie, Gerard van der Schrier, M. van der Vliet, Guido R. van der Werf, A. Vance, Jean-Paul Vernier, Isaac J. Vimont, Holger Vömel, Russell S. Vose, Ray Wang, Markus Weber, David Wiese, Anne C. Wilber, Jeanette D. Wild, Takmeng Wong, R. Iestyn Woolway, Zhou Xinjia, Xungang Yin, Guangyu Zhao, Lin Zhao, Jerry R. Ziemke, Markus Ziese, and R. M. Zotta
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