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Dustin J. Swales, George S. Young, Todd D. Sikora, Nathaniel S. Winstead, and Hampton N. Shirer

Abstract

The synthetic aperture radar ocean surface signature of atmospheric internal gravity waves in the vicinity of a synoptic-scale warm front is examined via a classic Kelvin–Helmholtz velocity profile with a rigid lower boundary and a sloping interface. The horizontal distance that the waves extend from the surface warm front is consistent with a bifurcation along the warm frontal inversion from unstable to neutral solutions. Similarity theories are derived for the wave span and the location of maximum growth rate relative to the surface front position. The theoretical maximum wave growth rate is demonstrated to occur near this bifurcation point and, hence, to explain the observed pattern of wave amplitude. Finally, a wave crest-tracing procedure is developed to explain the observed acute orientation of waves with respect to the surface warm front.

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Michael A. Alexander, James D. Scott, Dustin Swales, Mimi Hughes, Kelly Mahoney, and Catherine A. Smith

Abstract

Two methods were used to identify the paths of moisture transport that reach the U.S. Intermountain West (IMW) during heavy precipitation events in winter. In the first, the top 150 precipitation events at stations located within six regions in the IMW were identified, and then back trajectories were initiated at 6-h intervals on those days at the four Climate Forecast System Reanalysis grid points nearest the stations. The second method identified the leading patterns of integrated water vapor transport (IVT) using the three leading empirical orthogonal functions of IVT over land that were first normalized by the local standard deviation. The top 1% of the associated 6-hourly time series was used to construct composites of IVT, atmospheric circulation, and precipitation. The results from both methods indicate that moisture originating from the Pacific that leads to extreme precipitation in the IMW during winter takes distinct pathways and is influenced by gaps in the Cascades (Oregon–Washington), the Sierra Nevada (California), and Peninsular Ranges (from Southern California through Baja California). The moisture transported along these routes appears to be the primary source for heavy precipitation for the mountain ranges in the IMW. The synoptic conditions associated with the dominant IVT patterns include a trough–ridge couplet at 500 hPa, with the trough located northwest of the ridge where the associated circulation funnels moisture from the west-southwest through the mountain gaps and into the IMW.

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Dustin J. Swales, George S. Young, Todd D. Sikora, Nathaniel S. Winstead, and Hampton N. Shirer
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James D. Scott, Michael A. Alexander, Donald R. Murray, Dustin Swales, and Jon Eischeid
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Kelly Mahoney, Dustin Swales, Michael J. Mueller, Michael Alexander, Mimi Hughes, and Kelsey Malloy

Abstract

Atmospheric rivers (ARs) are well-known producers of precipitation along the U.S. West Coast. Depending on their intensity, orientation, and location of landfall, some ARs penetrate inland and cause heavy rainfall and flooding hundreds of miles from the coast. Climate change is projected to potentially alter a variety of AR characteristics and impacts. This study examines potential future changes in moisture transport and precipitation intensity, type, and distribution for a high-impact landfalling AR event in the U.S. Pacific Northwest using an ensemble of high-resolution numerical simulations produced under projected future thermodynamic changes.

Results indicate increased total precipitation in all future simulations, although there is considerable model spread in both domain-averaged and localized inland precipitation totals. Notable precipitation enhancements across inland locations such as Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountain Range are present in four out of six future simulations. The most marked inland precipitation increases are shown to occur by way of stronger and deeper moisture transport that more effectively crosses Oregon’s Coastal and Cascade mountain ranges, essentially “spilling over” into the Snake River Valley and fueling orographic precipitation in the Sawtooth Mountains. Moisture transport enhancements are shown to have both thermodynamic and dynamic contributions, with both enhanced absolute environmental moisture and localized lower- and midlevel dynamics contributing to amplified inland moisture penetration. Precipitation that fell as snow in the present-day simulation becomes rain in the future simulations for many mid- and high-elevation locations, suggesting potential for enhanced flood risk for these regions in future climate instances of similar events.

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Yuying Zhang, Shaocheng Xie, Stephen A. Klein, Roger Marchand, Pavlos Kollias, Eugene E. Clothiaux, Wuyin Lin, Karen Johnson, Dustin Swales, Alejandro Bodas-Salcedo, Shuaiqi Tang, John M. Haynes, Scott Collis, Michael Jensen, Nitin Bharadwaj, Joseph Hardin, and Bradley Isom
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Randall M. Dole, J. Ryan Spackman, Matthew Newman, Gilbert P. Compo, Catherine A. Smith, Leslie M. Hartten, Joseph J. Barsugli, Robert S. Webb, Martin P. Hoerling, Robert Cifelli, Klaus Wolter, Christopher D. Barnet, Maria Gehne, Ronald Gelaro, George N. Kiladis, Scott Abbott, Elena Akish, John Albers, John M. Brown, Christopher J. Cox, Lisa Darby, Gijs de Boer, Barbara DeLuisi, Juliana Dias, Jason Dunion, Jon Eischeid, Christopher Fairall, Antonia Gambacorta, Brian K. Gorton, Andrew Hoell, Janet Intrieri, Darren Jackson, Paul E. Johnston, Richard Lataitis, Kelly M. Mahoney, Katherine McCaffrey, H. Alex McColl, Michael J. Mueller, Donald Murray, Paul J. Neiman, William Otto, Ola Persson, Xiao-Wei Quan, Imtiaz Rangwala, Andrea J. Ray, David Reynolds, Emily Riley Dellaripa, Karen Rosenlof, Naoko Sakaeda, Prashant D. Sardeshmukh, Laura C. Slivinski, Lesley Smith, Amy Solomon, Dustin Swales, Stefan Tulich, Allen White, Gary Wick, Matthew G. Winterkorn, Daniel E. Wolfe, and Robert Zamora

Abstract

Forecasts by mid-2015 for a strong El Niño during winter 2015/16 presented an exceptional scientific opportunity to accelerate advances in understanding and predictions of an extreme climate event and its impacts while the event was ongoing. Seizing this opportunity, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) initiated an El Niño Rapid Response (ENRR), conducting the first field campaign to obtain intensive atmospheric observations over the tropical Pacific during El Niño.

The overarching ENRR goal was to determine the atmospheric response to El Niño and the implications for predicting extratropical storms and U.S. West Coast rainfall. The field campaign observations extended from the central tropical Pacific to the West Coast, with a primary focus on the initial tropical atmospheric response that links El Niño to its global impacts. NOAA deployed its Gulfstream-IV (G-IV) aircraft to obtain observations around organized tropical convection and poleward convective outflow near the heart of El Niño. Additional tropical Pacific observations were obtained by radiosondes launched from Kiritimati , Kiribati, and the NOAA ship Ronald H. Brown, and in the eastern North Pacific by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Global Hawk unmanned aerial system. These observations were all transmitted in real time for use in operational prediction models. An X-band radar installed in Santa Clara, California, helped characterize precipitation distributions. This suite supported an end-to-end capability extending from tropical Pacific processes to West Coast impacts. The ENRR observations were used during the event in operational predictions. They now provide an unprecedented dataset for further research to improve understanding and predictions of El Niño and its impacts.

Open access