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The role of hydrological initial conditions on atmospheric river floods in the Russian River basin

TitleThe role of hydrological initial conditions on atmospheric river floods in the Russian River basin
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsCao Q., Mehran A., Ralph FM, Lettenmaier DP
Date Published2019/08
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number1525-755X
Accession NumberWOS:000478862400001
Keywordsantecedent soil; climate; Extreme events; frequency; Hydrologic models; inland penetration; landfall; Meteorology & Atmospheric Sciences; model; precipitation; rainfall; runoff generation; Soil moisture; soil-moisture

A body of work over the last decade or so has demonstrated that most major floods along the U.S. West Coast are attributable to atmospheric rivers (ARs). Recent studies suggest that observed changes in extreme precipitation associated with a general warming of the western United States have not necessarily led to corresponding changes in floods, and changes in antecedent hydrological conditions could be a primary missing link. Here we examine the role of antecedent soil moisture (ASM) conditions on historical AR flooding on California's Russian River basin, a coastal watershed whose winter precipitation extremes are dominated by ARs. We examined the effect of observed warming on ASM for the period 1950-2017. We first constructed an hourly precipitation product at 1/32 degrees spatial resolution. We used the Distributed Hydrology Soil Vegetation Model (DHSVM) to estimate storm total runoff volumes and soil moisture. We found that up to 95% of peaks-over-threshold (POT) extreme discharge events were associated with ARs. The storm runoff-precipitation ratio generally increased with wetter prestorm conditions, and the relationship was stronger as drainage area increased. We found no trends in extreme precipitation but weak downward trends in extreme discharge. The latter were mostly consistent with weak downward trends in the first 2-day storm precipitation. We found no trends in ASM; however, ASM was significantly correlated with peak flow. The ASM was affected more by antecedent precipitation than evapotranspiration, and hence temperature increases had weak effects on ASM.

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