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2018
Nardi, KM, Barnes EA, Ralph FM.  2018.  Assessment of numerical weather prediction model reforecasts of the occurrence, intensity, and location of atmospheric rivers along the west coast of North America. Monthly Weather Review. 146:3343-3362.   10.1175/mwr-d-18-0060.1   AbstractWebsite

Atmospheric rivers (ARs)-narrow corridors of high atmospheric water vapor transport-occur globally and are associated with flooding and maintenance of the water supply. Therefore, it is important to improve forecasts of AR occurrence and characteristics. Although prior work has examined the skill of numerical weather prediction (NWP) models in forecasting atmospheric rivers, these studies only cover several years of reforecasts from a handful of models. Here, we expand this previous work and assess the performance of 10-30 years of wintertime (November-February) AR landfall reforecasts from the control runs of nine operational weather models, obtained from the International Subseasonal to Seasonal (S2S) Project database. Model errors along the west coast of North America at leads of 1-14 days are examined in terms of AR occurrence, intensity, and landfall location. Occurrence-based skill approaches that of climatology at 14 days, while models are, on average, more skillful at shorter leads in California, Oregon, and Washington compared to British Columbia and Alaska. We also find that the average magnitude of landfall integrated water vapor transport (IVT) error stays fairly constant across lead times, although overprediction of IVT is common at later lead times. Finally, we show that northward landfall location errors are favored in California, Oregon, and Washington, although southward errors occur more often than expected from climatology. These results highlight the need for model improvements, while helping to identify factors that cause model errors.

Viale, M, Valenzuela R, Garreaud RD, Ralph FM.  2018.  Impacts of atmospheric rivers on precipitation in southern South America. Journal of Hydrometeorology. 19:1671-1687.   10.1175/jhm-d-18-0006.1   AbstractWebsite

This study quantifies the impact of atmospheric rivers (ARs) on precipitation in southern South America. An AR detection algorithm was developed based on integrated water vapor transport (IVT) from 6-hourly CFSR reanalysis data over a 16-yr period (2001-16). AR landfalls were linked to precipitation using a comprehensive observing network that spanned large variations in terrain along and across the Andes from 27 degrees to 55 degrees S, including some sites with hourly data. Along the Pacific (west) coast, AR landfalls are most frequent between 38 degrees and 50 degrees S, averaging 35-40 days yr(-1). This decreases rapidly to the south and north of this maximum, as well as to the east of the Andes. Landfalling ARs are more frequent in winter/spring (summer/fall) to the north (south) of similar to 43 degrees S. ARs contribute 45%-60% of the annual precipitation in subtropical Chile (37 degrees-32 degrees S) and 40%-55% along the midlatitude west coast (37 degrees-47 degrees S). These values significantly exceed those in western North America, likely due to the Andes being taller. In subtropical and midlatitude regions, roughly half of all events with top-quartile precipitation rates occur under AR conditions. Median daily and hourly precipitation in ARs is 2-3 times that of other storms. The results of this study extend knowledge of the key roles of ARs on precipitation, weather, and climate in the South American region. They enable comparisons with other areas globally, provide context for specific events, and support local nowcasting and forecasting.

Dettinger, MD, Ralph FM, Rutz JJ.  2018.  Empirical return periods of the most intense vapor transports during historical atmospheric river landfalls on the US West Coast. Journal of Hydrometeorology. 19:1363-1377.   10.1175/jhm-d-17-0247.1   AbstractWebsite

Atmospheric rivers (ARs) come in all intensities, and clear communication of risks posed by individual storms in observations and forecasts can be a challenge. Modest ARs can be characterized by the percentile rank of their integrated water vapor transport (IVT) rates compared to past ARs. Stronger ARs can be categorized more clearly in terms of return periods or, equivalently, historical probabilities that at least one AR will exceed a given IVT threshold in any given year. Based on a 1980-2016 chronology of AR landfalls on the U.S. West Coast from NASA's Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications, version 2 (MERRA-2), datasets, the largest instantaneous IVTsgreater than 1700 kg m(-1) s(-1)have occurred in ARs making landfall between 41 degrees and 46 degrees N with return periods longer than 20 years. IVT values with similar return periods are smaller to the north and, especially, to the south (declining to similar to 750 kg m(-1) s(-1)). The largest storm-sequence IVT totals have been centered near 42.5 degrees N, with scatter among the top few events, and these large storm-sequence totals depend more on sequence duration than on the instantaneous IVT that went into them. Maximum instantaneous IVTs are largest in the Pacific Northwest in autumn, with largest IVT values arriving farther south as winter and spring unfold, until maximum IVTs reach Northern California in spring.

Shields, CA, Rutz JJ, Leung LY, Ralph FM, Wehner M, Kawzenuk B, Lora JM, McClenny E, Osborne T, Payne AE, Ullrich P, Gershunov A, Goldenson N, Guan B, Qian Y, Ramos AM, Sarangi C, Sellars S, Gorodetskaya I, Kashinath K, Kurlin V, Mahoney K, Muszynski G, Pierce R, Subramanian AC, Tome R, Waliser D, Walton D, Wick G, Wilson A, Lavers D, Prabhat, Collow A, Krishnan H, Magnusdottir G, Nguyen P.  2018.  Atmospheric River Tracking Method Intercomparison Project (ARTMIP): project goals and experimental design. Geoscientific Model Development. 11:2455-2474.   10.5194/gmd-11-2455-2018   AbstractWebsite

The Atmospheric River Tracking Method Intercomparison Project (ARTMIP) is an international collaborative effort to understand and quantify the uncertainties in atmospheric river (AR) science based on detection algorithm alone. Currently, there are many AR identification and tracking algorithms in the literature with a wide range of techniques and conclusions. ARTMIP strives to provide the community with information on different methodologies and provide guidance on the most appropriate algorithm for a given science question or region of interest. All ARTMIP participants will implement their detection algorithms on a specified common dataset for a defined period of time. The project is divided into two phases: Tier 1 will utilize the Modern-Era Retrospective analysis for Research and Applications, version 2 (MERRA-2) reanalysis from January 1980 to June 2017 and will be used as a baseline for all subsequent comparisons. Participation in Tier 1 is required. Tier 2 will be optional and include sensitivity studies designed around specific science questions, such as reanalysis uncertainty and climate change. High-resolution reanalysis and/or model output will be used wherever possible. Proposed metrics include AR frequency, duration, intensity, and precipitation attributable to ARs. Here, we present the ARTMIP experimental design, timeline, project requirements, and a brief description of the variety of methodologies in the current literature. We also present results from our 1-month "proof-of-concept" trial run designed to illustrate the utility and feasibility of the ARTMIP project.

DeFlorio, MJ, Waliser DE, Guan B, Lavers DA, Ralph FM, Vitart F.  2018.  Global assessment of atmospheric river prediction skill. Journal of Hydrometeorology. 19:409-426.   10.1175/jhm-d-17-0135.1   AbstractWebsite

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 Nino-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 Nino + positive PNA conditions and over the North Atlantic/United Kingdom at a 7-day lead during La Nina + 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.

2017
Lamjiri, MA, Dettinger MD, Ralph FM, Guan B.  2017.  Hourly storm characteristics along the US West Coast: Role of atmospheric rivers in extreme precipitation. Geophysical Research Letters. 44:7020-7028.   10.1002/2017gl074193   AbstractWebsite

Gridded hourly precipitation observations over the conterminous U.S., from 1948 to 2002, are analyzed to determine climatological characteristics of storm precipitation totals. Despite generally lower hourly intensities, precipitation totals along the U.S. West Coast (USWC) are comparable to those in southeast U.S. (SEUS). Storm durations, more so than hourly intensities, strongly modulate precipitation- total variability over the USWC, where the correlation coefficients between storm durations and storm totals range from 0.7 to 0.9. Atmospheric rivers (ARs) contribute 30-50% of annual precipitation on the USWC and make such large contributions to extreme storms that 60-100% of the most extreme storms, i.e., storms with precipitation- total return intervals longer than 2 years, are associated with ARs. These extreme storm totals are more strongly tied to storm durations than to storm hourly or average intensities, emphasizing the importance of AR persistence to extreme storms on the USWC.

Sellars, SL, Kawzenuk B, Nguyen P, Ralph FM, Sorooshian S.  2017.  Genesis, pathways, and terminations of intense global water vapor transport in association with large-scale climate patterns. Geophysical Research Letters. 44:12465-12475.   10.1002/2017gl075495   AbstractWebsite

The CONNected objECT (CONNECT) algorithm is applied to global Integrated Water Vapor Transport data from the NASA's Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications - Version 2 reanalysis product for the period of 1980 to 2016. The algorithm generates life-cycle records in time and space evolving strong vapor transport events. We show five regions, located in the midlatitudes, where events typically exist (off the coast of the southeast United States, eastern China, eastern South America, off the southern tip of South Africa, and in the southeastern Pacific Ocean). Global statistics show distinct genesis and termination regions and global seasonal peak frequency during Northern Hemisphere late fall/winter and Southern Hemisphere winter. In addition, the event frequency and geographical location are shown to be modulated by the Arctic Oscillation, Pacific North American Pattern, and the quasi-biennial oscillation. Moreover, a positive linear trend in the annual number of objects is reported, increasing by 3.58 objects year-over-year. Plain Language Summary A computational science approach to tracking global atmospheric water vapor plumes is applied to a NASA data set from 1980 to 2016. Results show regions of the globe where intense water vapor transport often exists, including their genesis and termination locations. Winter time months tend to have more water vapor plumes in both the Southern and Northern Hemispheres. In addition, climate phenomena also have an impact on the frequency and location of these water vapor plumes.

Ralph, FM, Iacobellis SF, Neiman PJ, Cordeira JM, Spackman JR, Waliser DE, Wick GA, White AB, Fairall C.  2017.  Dropsonde observations of total integrated water vapor transport within North Pacific atmospheric rivers. Journal of Hydrometeorology. 18:2577-2596.   10.1175/jhm-d-17-0036.1   AbstractWebsite

Aircraft dropsonde observations provide the most comprehensive measurements to date of horizontal water vapor transport in atmospheric rivers (ARs). The CalWater experiment recently more than tripled the number of ARs probed with the required measurements. This study uses vertical profiles of water vapor, wind, and pressure obtained from 304 dropsondes across 21 ARs. On average, total water vapor transport ( TIVT) in an AR was 4.7 x 10(8) +/- 2 x 10(8) kg s(-1). This magnitude is 2.6 times larger than the average discharge of liquid water from the Amazon River. The mean AR width was 890 +/- 270 km. Subtropical ARs contained larger integrated water vapor ( IWV) but weaker winds than midlatitude ARs, although average TIVTs were nearly the same. Mean TIVTs calculated by defining the lateral "edges'' of ARs using an IVT threshold versus an IWV threshold produced results that differed by less than 10% across all cases, but did vary between the midlatitudes and subtropical regions.

Hu, HC, Dominguez F, Wang Z, Lavers DA, Zhang G, Ralph FM.  2017.  Linking atmospheric river hydrological impacts on the US West Coast to Rossby wave breaking. Journal of Climate. 30:3381-3399.   10.1175/jcli-d-16-0386.1   AbstractWebsite

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 degrees-49 degrees 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, AWBARs 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 CWBARs 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.

2016
Ralph, FM, Prather KA, Cayan D, Spackman JR, DeMott P, Dettinger M, Fairall C, Leung R, Rosenfeld D, Rutledge S, Waliser D, White AB, Cordeira J, Martin A, Helly J, Intrieri J.  2016.  CalWater field studies designed to quantify the roles of atmospheric rivers and aerosols in modulating US West Coast precipitation in a changing climate. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. 97:1209-1228.   10.1175/bams-d-14-00043.1   AbstractWebsite

The variability of precipitation and water supply along the U.S. West Coast creates major challenges to the region’s economy and environment, as evidenced by the recent California drought. This variability is strongly influenced by atmospheric rivers (ARs), which deliver much of the precipitation along the U.S. West Coast and can cause flooding, and by aerosols (from local sources and transported from remote continents and oceans) that modulate clouds and precipitation. A better understanding of these processes is needed to reduce uncertainties in weather predictions and climate projections of droughts and floods, both now and under changing climate conditions.To address these gaps, a group of meteorologists, hydrologists, climate scientists, atmospheric chemists, and oceanographers have created an interdisciplinary research effort, with support from multiple agencies. From 2009 to 2011 a series of field campaigns [California Water Service (CalWater) 1] collected atmospheric chemistry, cloud microphysics, and meteorological measurements in California and associated modeling and diagnostic studies were carried out. Based on the remaining gaps, a vision was developed to extend these studies offshore over the eastern North Pacific and to enhance land-based measurements from 2014 to 2018 (CalWater-2). The dataset and selected results from CalWater-1 are summarized here. The goals of CalWater-2, and measurements to date, are then described.CalWater is producing new findings and exploring new technologies to evaluate and improve global climate models and their regional performance and to develop tools supporting water and hydropower management. These advances also have potential to enhance hazard mitigation by improving near-term weather prediction and subseasonal and seasonal outlooks.

2015
Creamean, JM, Ault AP, White AB, Neiman PJ, Ralph FM, Minnis P, Prather KA.  2015.  Impact of interannual variations in sources of insoluble aerosol species on orographic precipitation over California's central Sierra Nevada. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. 15:6535-6548.   10.5194/acp-15-6535-2015   AbstractWebsite

Aerosols that serve as cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) and ice nuclei (IN) have the potential to profoundly influence precipitation processes. Furthermore, changes in orographic precipitation have broad implications for reservoir storage and flood risks. As part of the CalWater field campaign (2009-2011), the variability and associated impacts of different aerosol sources on precipitation were investigated in the California Sierra Nevada using an aerosol time-of-flight mass spectrometer for precipitation chemistry, S-band profiling radar for precipitation classification, remote sensing measurements of cloud properties, and surface meteorological measurements. The composition of insoluble residues in precipitation samples collected at a surface site contained mostly local biomass burning and longrange- transported dust and biological particles (2009), local sources of biomass burning and pollution (2010), and longrange transport (2011). Although differences in the sources of insoluble residues were observed from year to year, the most consistent source of dust and biological residues were associated with storms consisting of deep convective cloud systems with significant quantities of precipitation initiated in the ice phase. Further, biological residues were dominant (up to 40 %) during storms with relatively warm cloud temperatures (up to -15 degrees C), supporting the important role bioparticles can play as ice nucleating particles. On the other hand, lower percentages of residues from local biomass burning and pollution were observed over the three winter seasons (on average 31 and 9 %, respectively). When precipitation quantities were relatively low, these insoluble residues most likely served as CCN, forming smaller more numerous cloud droplets at the base of shallow cloud systems, and resulting in less efficient riming processes. Ultimately, the goal is to use such observations to improve the mechanistic linkages between aerosol sources and precipitation processes to produce more accurate predictive weather forecast models and improve water resource management.

Rutz, JJ, Steenburgh WJ, Ralph FM.  2015.  The inland penetration of atmospheric rivers over Western North America: A Lagrangian analysis. Monthly Weather Review. 143:1924-1944.   10.1175/mwr-d-14-00288.1   AbstractWebsite

Although atmospheric rivers (ARs) typically weaken following landfall, those that penetrate inland can contribute to heavy precipitation and high-impact weather within the interior of western North America. In this paper, the authors examine the evolution of ARs over western North America using trajectories released at 950 and 700 hPa within cool-season ARs along the Pacific coast. These trajectories are classified as coastal decaying, inland penetrating, or interior penetrating based on whether they remain within an AR upon reaching selected transects over western North America. Interior-penetrating AR trajectories most frequently make landfall along the Oregon coast, but the greatest fraction of landfalling AR trajectories that eventually penetrate into the interior within an AR is found along the Baja Peninsula. In contrast, interior-penetrating AR trajectories rarely traverse the southern "high'' Sierra. At landfall, interior-penetrating AR trajectories are associated with a more amplified flow pattern, more southwesterly (vs westerly) flow along the Pacific coast, and larger water vapor transport (qv). The larger initial qv of interior-penetrating AR trajectories is due primarily to larger initial water vapor q and wind speed v for those initiated at 950 and 700 hPa, respectively. Inland- and interior-penetrating AR trajectories maintain large qv over the interior partially due to increases in v that offset decreases in q, particularly in the vicinity of topographical barriers. Therefore, synoptic conditions and trajectory pathways favoring larger initial qv at the coast, limited water vapor depletion by orographic precipitation, and increases in v over the interior are keys to differentiating interior-penetrating from coastal-decaying ARs.

2014
Neiman, PJ, Ralph FM, Moore BJ, Zamora RJ.  2014.  The regional influence of an intense Sierra Barrier jet and landfalling atmospheric river on orographic precipitation in Northern California: A case study. Journal of Hydrometeorology. 15:1419-1439.   10.1175/jhm-d-13-0183.1   AbstractWebsite

A 915-MHz wind profiler, a GPS receiver, and surface meteorological sites in and near California's northern Central Valley (CV) provide the observational anchor for a case study on 23-25 October 2010. The study highlights key orographic influences on precipitation distributions and intensities across northern California during a landfalling atmospheric river (AR) and an associated Sierra barrier jet (SBJ). A detailed wind profiler/GPS analysis documents an intense AR overriding a shallow SBJ at similar to 750 m MSL, resulting in record early season precipitation. The SBJ diverts shallow, pre-cold-frontal, incoming water vapor within the AR poleward from the San Francisco Bay gap to the northern CV. The SBJ ultimately decays following the passage of the AR and trailing polar cold front aloft. A statistical analysis of orographic forcing reveals that both the AR and SBJ are crucial factors in determining the amount and spatial distribution of precipitation in the northern Sierra Nevada and in the Shasta-Trinity region at the northern terminus of the CV. As the AR and SBJ flow ascends the steep and tall terrain of the northern Sierra and Shasta-Trinity region, respectively, the precipitation becomes enhanced. Vertical profiles of the linear correlation coefficient quantify the orographic linkage between hourly upslope water vapor flux profiles and hourly rain rate. The altitude of maximum correlation (i.e., orographic controlling layer) is lower for the shallow SBJ than for the deeper AR (i.e., 0.90 versus 1.15 km MSL, respectively). This case study expands the understanding of orographic precipitation enhancement from coastal California to its interior. It also quantifies the connection between dry antecedent soils and reduced flood potential.

2012
Dettinger, MD, Ralph FM, Hughes M, Das T, Neiman P, Cox D, Estes G, Reynolds D, Hartman R, Cayan D, Jones L.  2012.  Design and quantification of an extreme winter storm scenario for emergency preparedness and planning exercises in California. Natural Hazards. 60:1085-1111.   10.1007/s11069-011-9894-5   AbstractWebsite

The USGS Multihazards Project is working with numerous agencies to evaluate and plan for hazards and damages that could be caused by extreme winter storms impacting California. Atmospheric and hydrological aspects of a hypothetical storm scenario have been quantified as a basis for estimation of human, infrastructure, economic, and environmental impacts for emergency-preparedness and flood-planning exercises. In order to ensure scientific defensibility and necessary levels of detail in the scenario description, selected historical storm episodes were concatentated to describe a rapid arrival of several major storms over the state, yielding precipitation totals and runoff rates beyond those occurring during the individual historical storms. This concatenation allowed the scenario designers to avoid arbitrary scalings and is based on historical occasions from the 19th and 20th Centuries when storms have stalled over the state and when extreme storms have arrived in rapid succession. Dynamically consistent, hourly precipitation, temperatures, barometric pressures (for consideration of storm surges and coastal erosion), and winds over California were developed for the so-called ARkStorm scenario by downscaling the concatenated global records of the historical storm sequences onto 6- and 2-km grids using a regional weather model of January 1969 and February 1986 storm conditions. The weather model outputs were then used to force a hydrologic model to simulate ARkStorm runoff, to better understand resulting flooding risks. Methods used to build this scenario can be applied to other emergency, nonemergency and non-California applications.

2011
Neiman, PJ, Schick LJ, Ralph FM, Hughes M, Wick GA.  2011.  Flooding in Western Washington: The connection to atmospheric rivers. Journal of Hydrometeorology. 12:1337-1358.   10.1175/2011jhm1358.1   AbstractWebsite

This study utilizes multiple decades of daily streamflow data gathered in four major watersheds in western Washington to determine the meteorological conditions most likely to cause flooding in those watersheds. Two are located in the Olympic Mountains and the other two in the western Cascades; and each has uniquely different topographic characteristics. The flood analysis is based on the maximum daily flow observed during each water year (WY) at each site [i.e., the annual peak daily flow (APDF)], with an initial emphasis on the 12 most recent water years between WY1998 and 2009, and then focusing on a 30-year interval between WY 1980 and 2009. The shorter time period coincides with relatively complete passive microwave satellite coverage of integrated water vapor (IWV) over the Pacific basin. The combination of IWV imagery and streamflow data highlights a close link between landfalling atmospheric rivers (ARs) and APDFs (i.e., 46 of the 48 APDFs occurred with landfalling ARs). To complement this approach, the three-decade time series of APDFs, which correspond to the availability of the North American Regional Reanalysis (NARR) dataset, are examined. The APDFs occur most often, and are typically largest in magnitude, from November to January. The NARR is used to assess the composite meteorological conditions associated with the 10 largest APDFs at each site during this 30-year period. Heavy precipitation fell during the top 10 APDFs, and anomalously high composite NARR melting levels averaged similar to 1.9 km MSL, which is primarily above the four basins of interest. Hence, on average, mostly rain rather than snow fell within these basins, leading to enhanced runoff. The flooding on the four watersheds shared common meteorological attributes, including the presence of landfalling ARs with anomalous warmth, strong low-level water vapor fluxes, and weak static stability. There were also key differences that modulated the orographic control of precipitation. Notably, two watersheds experienced their top 10 APDFs when the low-level flow was southwesterly, while the other two basins had their largest APDFs with west southwesterly flow. These differences arose because of the region's complex topography, basin orientations, and related rain shadowing.

Ralph, FM, Neiman PJ, Kiladis GN, Weickmann K, Reynolds DW.  2011.  A multiscale observational case study of a Pacific atmospheric river exhibiting tropical-extratropical connections and a mesoscale frontal wave. Monthly Weather Review. 139:1169-1189.   10.1175/2010mwr3596.1   AbstractWebsite

A case study is presented of an atmospheric river (AR) that produced heavy precipitation in the U.S. Pacific Northwest during March 2005. The study documents several key ingredients from the planetary scale to the mesoscale that contributed to the extreme nature of this event. The multiscale analysis uses unique experimental data collected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) P-3 aircraft operated from Hawaii, coastal wind profiler and global positioning system (GPS) meteorological stations in Oregon, and satellite and global reanalysis data. Moving from larger scales to smaller scales, the primary findings of this study are as follow: 1) phasing of several major planetary-scale phenomena influenced by tropical-extratropical interactions led to the direct entrainment of tropical water vapor into the AR near Hawaii, 2) dropsonde observations documented the northward advection of tropical water vapor into the subtropical extension of the midlatitude AR, and 3) a mesoscale frontal wave increased the duration of AR conditions at landfall in the Pacific Northwest.

2005
Neiman, PJ, Wick GA, Ralph FM, Martner BE, White AB, Kingsmill DE.  2005.  Wintertime nonbrightband rain in California and Oregon during CALJET and PACJET: Geographic, interannual, and synoptic variability. Monthly Weather Review. 133:1199-1223.   10.1175/Mwr2919.1   AbstractWebsite

An objective algorithm presented in White et al. was applied to vertically pointing S-band (S-PROF) radar data recorded at four sites in northern California and western Oregon during four winters to assess the geographic, interannual, and synoptic variability of stratiform nonbrightband (NBB) rain in landfalling winter storms. NBB rain typically fell in a shallow layer residing beneath the melting level (similar to 6 km MSL) The shallow NBB echo tops often resided beneath the coverage of the operational Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D) scanning radars yet were still capable of producing flooding rains.NBB rain contributed significantly to the total winter-season rainfall at each of the four geographically distinct sites (i.e., 18%-35% of the winter-season rain totals). In addition, the rainfall observed at the coastal mountain site near Cazadero, California (CZD), during each of four winters was composed of a significant percentage of NBB rain (18%-50%); substantial NBB rainfall occurred regardless of the phase of the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (which ranged from strong El Nino to moderate La Nina conditions). Clearly, NBB rain occurs more widely and commonly in California and Oregon than can be inferred from the single-winter, single-site study of White et al.Composite NCEP-NCAR reanalysis maps and Geostationary Operational Environment Satellite (GOES) cloud-top temperature data were examined to evaluate the synoptic conditions that characterize periods of NBB precipitation observed at CZD and how they differ from periods with bright bands. The composites indicate that both rain types were tied generally to landfalling polar-cold-frontal systems. However, synoptic conditions favoring BB rain exhibited notable distinctions from those characterizing NBB periods. This included key differences in the position of the composite 300-mb jet stream and underlying cold front with respect to CZD, as well as notable differences in the intensity of the 500-mb shortwave trough offshore of CZD. The suite of BB composites exhibited dynamically consistent synoptic-scale characteristics that yielded stronger and deeper ascent over CZD than for the typically shallower NBB rain, consistent with the GOES satellite composites that showed 20-K warmer (2.3-km shallower) cloud tops for NBB rain. Composite soundings for both rain types possessed low-level potential instability, but the NBB sounding was warmer and moister with stronger low-level upslope flow, thus implying that orographically forced rainfall is enhanced during NBB conditions.