Hourly storm characteristics along the U.S. West Coast: role of atmospheric rivers in extreme precipitation

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Lamjiri, M. A., M. D. Dettinger, F. M. Ralph, and Bin Guan
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Gridded hourly precipitation observations over the conterminous US, 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 two 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.


Lamjiri, M. A., M. D. Dettinger, F. M. Ralph, and Bin Guan. 2017. “Hourly Storm Characteristics along the U.S. West Coast: Role of Atmospheric Rivers in Extreme Precipitation.” Geophysical Research Letters, 2017GL074193. doi:10.1002/2017GL074193.