Effects of atmospheric river landfalls on the cold season precipitation in California

Kim J., D. E. Waliser, P. J. Neiman, B. Guan, J.-M. Ryoo and G. A. Wick (January 2013): Effects of atmospheric river landfalls on the cold season precipitation in California. Clim. Dyn., 40 (1-2), 465-474. doi:10.1007/s00382-012-1322-3

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Effects of atmospheric river (AR) landfalls in the California coast on the cold-season precipitation in California are examined for the cold seasons of 10 water years (WYs) 2001–2010 using observed data and regional modeling in conjunction with AR-landfall inventory based on visual inspections of precipitable water vapor (PWV) from remote sensing and reanalysis. The PWV in the SSM/I and SSMIS retrievals and the ERA-Interim reanalysis shows 95 AR-landfall days in the California coast that are almost evenly split between the northern and southern coasts across 37.5N. The CPC/NCEP gridded daily precipitation analysis shows that 10–30% of the cold-season precipitation totals in California have occurred during these AR landfalls. The analysis also reveals that the percentage of precipitation and the precipitation intensity during AR landfalls in California are characterized by strong north-to-south gradient. This north–south contrast in the AR precipitation is reversed for the non-AR precipitation in the coastal range. The frequency of AR landfalls and the cold-season precipitation totals in the Sierra Nevada region are only marginally correlated. Instead, AR landfalls are closely related with the occurrence of heavy precipitation events. The freezing-level altitudes are systematically higher for AR wet days than non-AR wet days indicating warmer low-troposphere during AR storms. Cold season simulations for the 10 WYs 2001–2010 show that the Weather Research and Forecast (WRF) model can reasonably simulate important features in both the seasonal and AR precipitation totals. The daily pattern correlation coefficients between the simulated and ERA-Interim upper-air fields exceed 0.9 for most of the period. This suggests that the simulated temporal variations in the atmospheric circulation agree reasonably with the reanalysis over seasonal time scales, characteristics critical for reliable simulations of regional scale hydrologic cycle. The simulated seasonal and AR precipitation totals also agree reasonably with the CPC/NCEP precipitation analysis. The most notable model errors include the overestimation (underestimation) of the season-total and AR precipitation in the northern (southern) California region. The differences in the freezing-level altitudes during the AR- and non-AR wet days in the simulation agree with those from the ERA-Interim reanalysis. The freezing level altitudes are systematically overestimated in the simulations, suggesting warm biases in the low troposphere. Overall, WRF appears to perform reasonably in simulating the key features in the cold season precipitation related with AR landfalls, an important capability for assessing the impact of global climate variations and change on future hydrology in California.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: PSD Publications
Divisions: Physical Sciences Division
DOI: 10.1007/s00382-012-1322-3
URI: http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/pubs/id/eprint/916
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