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The relationship between extratropical cyclone strength and atmospheric river intensity and position

TitleThe relationship between extratropical cyclone strength and atmospheric river intensity and position
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsZhang Z.H, Ralph FM, Zheng M.H
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Date Published2019/02
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number0094-8276
Accession NumberWOS:000462072800076
Keywordsconnection; dropsonde observations; Geology; impacts; moisture; north pacific; perspectives; precipitation; seasonality; transport; west-coast

Extratropical cyclones (ECs) and atmospheric rivers (ARs) impact precipitation over the U.S. West Coast and other analogous regions globally. This study investigates the relationship between ECs and ARs by exploring the connections between EC strength and AR intensity and position using a new AR intensity scale. While 82% of ARs are associated with an EC, only 45% of ECs have a paired AR and the distance between the AR and EC varies greatly. Roughly 20% of ARs (defined by vertically integrated water vapor transport) occur without a nearby EC. These are usually close to a subtropical/tropical moisture source and include an anticyclone. AR intensity is only moderately proportional to EC strength. Neither the location nor intensity of an AR can be simply determined by an EC. Greater EC intensification occurs with stronger ARs, suggesting that ARs enhance EC deepening by providing more water vapor for latent heat release. Plain Language Summary Both extratropical cyclones and atmospheric rivers have impact on precipitation over the U.S. West Coast, and they are often mentioned together. However, the relationship between the two is not completely understood. In this study, we have examined the connections between extratropical cyclone strength and atmospheric river intensity and position. While 82% of atmospheric rivers are related to a cyclone, only 45% of cyclones have an accompanied atmospheric river. The distance between the two varies from about 300 km to over 2,000 km. Roughly 20% of atmospheric rivers occur without a nearby cyclone. These cases are close to the subtropical/tropical moisture source and are related to a high pressure. While cyclones can enhance atmospheric rivers with stronger wind, neither the location nor the intensity of an atmospheric river can be simply determined by a cyclone. On the other hand, atmospheric rivers with strong water vapor transport provide favorable conditions for cyclone intensification. Our results provide a comprehensive analysis of the relationship between atmospheric rivers and extratropical cyclones. This work improves the understanding of the dynamical mechanism for heavy precipitation over the U.S. West Coast and thus provides more reliable information on long-term flood control and water planning.

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