The regional influence of an intense Sierra Barrier jet and landfalling atmospheric river on orographic precipitation in Northern California: A case study

TitleThe regional influence of an intense Sierra Barrier jet and landfalling atmospheric river on orographic precipitation in Northern California: A case study
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsNeiman PJ, Ralph FM, Moore BJ, Zamora RJ
JournalJournal of Hydrometeorology
Volume15
Pagination1419-1439
Date Published2014/08
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number1525-755X
Accession NumberWOS:000339697000006
Keywordsclimate-change; cooperative-pilot-project; nevada mountains; pacific-ocean; part i; satellite; united-states; water; west-coast; winter storm
Abstract

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.

DOI10.1175/jhm-d-13-0183.1
Short TitleJ. Hydrometeorol.
Student Publication: 
No