Tropical Cyclone Flooding in the Carolinas

Maofeng Liu, James A. Smith, Long Yang, Gabriel A. Vecchi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The climatology of tropical cyclone flooding in the Carolinas is analyzed through annual flood peak observations from 411 U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) stream gauging stations. Tropical cyclones (TCs) account for 28% of the top 10 annual flood peaks, 55% of record floods, and 91% of floods with peak magnitudes at least 5 times greater than the 10-yr floods, highlighting the prominent role of TCs for flood extremes in the Carolinas. Of all TC-related flood events, the top 10 storms account for nearly 1/3 of annual flood peaks and more than 2/3 of record floods, reflecting the dominant role of a small number of storms in determining the upper tail of flood peak distributions. Analyses of the 10 storms highlight both common elements and diversity in storm properties that are responsible for flood peaks. Extratropical transition and orographic enhancement are important elements of extreme TC flooding in the Carolinas. Analyses of the Great Flood of 1916 highlight the flood peak of 3115 m3 s-1 in French Broad River at Asheville, 2.6 times greater than the second-largest peak from a record of 124 years. We also examine the hydroclimatology, hydrometeorology, and hydrology of flooding from Hurricanes Matthew (2016) and Florence (2018). Results point to contrasting storm properties for the two events, including tracks as well as rainfall distribution and associated physical mechanisms. Climatological analyses of vertically integrated water vapor transport (IVT) highlight the critical role of anomalous moisture transport from the Atlantic Ocean in producing extreme rainfall and flooding over the Carolinas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-70
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Hydrometeorology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


  • Extratropical transition
  • Flood events
  • Hurricanes/typhoons
  • Rainfall


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