Floods in the Southern Alps of New Zealand: the importance of atmospheric rivers

TitleFloods in the Southern Alps of New Zealand: the importance of atmospheric rivers
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsKingston D.G, Lavers D.A, Hannah D.M
JournalHydrological Processes
Volume30
Pagination5063-5070
Date Published2016/12
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number0885-6087
Accession NumberWOS:000392866700014
Keywordsatmospheric rivers; catchment; circulation; flooding; lake inflows; New Zealand; precipitation; rainfall; satellite; waitaki river
Abstract

Extremely high precipitation occurs in the Southern Alps of New Zealand, associated with both orographic enhancement and synoptic-scale weather processes. In this study, we test the hypothesis that atmospheric rivers (ARs) are a key driver of floods in the Southern Alps of New Zealand. Vertically integrated water vapour and horizontal water vapour transport, and atmospheric circulation, are investigated concurrently with major floods on the Waitaki River (a major South Island river). Analysis of the largest eight winter maximum floods between 1979 and 2012 indicates that all are associated with ARs. Geopotential height fields reveal that these ARs are located in slow eastward moving extratropical cyclones, with high pressure to the northeast of New Zealand. The confirmation of ARs as a contributor to Waitaki flooding indicates the need for their further exploration to better understand South Island hydrometeorological extremes. Copyright (c) 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

DOI10.1002/hyp.10982
Short TitleHydrol. Process.
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