Climatology of extreme daily precipitation in Colorado and its diverse spatial and seasonal variability

TitleClimatology of extreme daily precipitation in Colorado and its diverse spatial and seasonal variability
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsMahoney K., Ralph FM, Wolter K., Doesken N., Dettinger M, Gottas D., Coleman T, White A.
JournalJournal of Hydrometeorology
Volume16
Pagination781-792
Date Published2015/04
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number1525-755X
Accession NumberWOS:000352735100020
KeywordsAtmospheric River; Climatology; Complex terrain; flash-flood; Hydrometeorology; inland penetration; landfall; Mountain meteorology; planning; rain events; Regional effects; scale; western united-states
Abstract

The climatology of Colorado's historical extreme precipitation events shows a remarkable degree of seasonal and regional variability. Analysis of the largest historical daily precipitation totals at COOP stations across Colorado by season indicates that the largest recorded daily precipitation totals have ranged from less than 60 mm day(-1) in some areas to more than 250 mm day(-1) in others. East of the Continental Divide, winter events are rarely among the top 10 events at a given site, but spring events dominate in and near the foothills; summer events are most common across the lower-elevation eastern plains, while fall events are most typical for the lower elevations west of the Divide. The seasonal signal in Colorado's central mountains is complex; high-elevation intense precipitation events have occurred in all months of the year, including summer, when precipitation is more likely to be liquid (as opposed to snow), which poses more of an instantaneous flood risk. Notably, the historic Colorado Front Range daily rainfall totals that contributed to the damaging floods in September 2013 occurred outside of that region's typical season for most extreme precipitation (spring-summer). That event and many others highlight the fact that extreme precipitation in Colorado has occurred historically during all seasons and at all elevations, emphasizing a year-round statewide risk.

DOI10.1175/jhm-d-14-0112.1
Short TitleJ. Hydrometeorol.
Student Publication: 
No
Research Topics: 
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