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Publication Date
15 November 2022

Characteristics and Variability of Winter Northern Pacific Atmospheric River Flavors



Atmospheric rivers (ARs) are intensive poleward moisture transport events that are essential to the global hydrological cycle and are often linked to extreme weather events. We categorize the winter North Pacific ARs into two “flavors”: wind-dominated (windy ARs) and moisture-dominated (wet ARs) using 40 years of hourly data from ERA5 reanalysis. We compare the differences between windy ARs and wet ARs including the lifecycle characteristics (such as genesis locations and changes of meteorological elements through the lifecycle), overall AR frequency, landfall impacts, and variability. The windy ARs are more likely to occur in the midlatitudes, while wet ARs are more active in the subtropics. Windy ARs are associated with intensive surface pressure lows, where the strong pressure gradient can support the strong wind within ARs. Due to larger size and longer lifetime, wet ARs are more likely to produce more precipitation over a lifecycle. By scaling the landfalling ARs, we show that wet ARs dominate the high-category ARs (Category 4 and 5) with higher spatial frequency and more precipitation, and windy ARs have higher contributions in the lower AR categories especially over British Columbia. Windy ARs are modulated by El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) teleconnections via the anomalous geopotential height and extended subtropical jet. Wet ARs are affected by the anomalous sea surface temperature over the midlatitudes related to ENSO. Sensitivity analysis with an alternate AR detection algorithm shows consistent results on AR flavors but with disagreement on the amplitude.

Zhou, Yang, Travis A. O’Brien, William D. Collins, Christine A. Shields, Burlen Loring, and Abdelrahman A. Elbashandy. 2022. “Characteristics And Variability Of Winter Northern Pacific Atmospheric River Flavors”. Journal Of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres 127. American Geophysical Union (AGU). doi:10.1029/2022jd037105.
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