Atmospheric rivers (ARs) play a central role in the hydrology and hydroclimatology of the central United States. More than 25% of the annual rainfall is associated with ARs over much of this region, with many large flood events tied to their occurrence. Despite the relevance of these storms for flood hydrology and water budget, the characteristics of rainfall associated with ARs over the central United has not been investigated thus far. This study fills this major scientific gap by describing the rainfall during ARs over the central United States using five remote sensing-based precipitation products over a 12-year study period. The products we consider are: Stage IV, Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission – Multi-satellite Precipitation Analysis (TMPA, both real-time and research version); Precipitation Estimation from Remotely Sensed Information using Artificial Neural Networks (PERSIANN); the CPC MORPHing Technique (CMORPH). As part of the study, we evaluate these products against a rain gauge-based dataset using both graphical- and metrics-based diagnostics. Based on our analyses, Stage IV is found to better reproduce the reference data. Hence, we use it for the characterization of rainfall in ARs. Most of the AR-rainfall is located in a narrow region within ∼150 km on both sides of the AR major axis. In this region, rainfall has a pronounced positive relationship with the magnitude of the water vapor transport. Moreover, we have also identified a consistent increase in rainfall intensity with duration (or persistence) of AR conditions. However, there is not a strong indication of diurnal variability in AR rainfall. These results can be directly used in developing flood protection strategies during ARs. Further, weather prediction agencies can benefit from the results of this study to achieve higher skill of resolving precipitation processes in their models.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Water Science and Technology
- Atmospheric rivers
- Extreme rainfall
- Rainfall characterization
- Remote sensing-based precipitation