Uncovering the role of the East Asian jet stream and heterogeneities in atmospheric rivers affecting the western United States

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Atmospheric rivers (ARs) exert major socioeconomic repercussions along the US West Coast by inducing heavy rainfall, flooding, strong winds, and storm surge. Despite the significant societal and economic repercussions of these storms, our understanding of the physical drivers responsible for their interannual variability is limited, with different climate modes identified as possible mechanisms. Here we show that the Pacific-Japan (PJ) teleconnections/ patterns and the East Asian subtropical jet (EASJ) exhibit a strong linkage with the total frequency of ARs making landfall over the western United States, much stronger than the other potential climate modes previously considered. While our findings indicate that the PJ pattern and EASJ are the most relevant climate modes driving the overall AR activity, we also uncover heterogeneities in AR tracks. Specifically, we show that not all ARs making landfall along the West Coast come from a single population, but rather that it is possible to stratify these storms into three clusters. While the PJ pattern and EASJ are major drivers of AR activity for two clusters, the cluster that primarily affects the US Southwest is largely driven by other climate modes [El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), the Atlantic meridional mode (AMM), the Pacific-North America (PNA) teleconnection pattern, and the North Pacific Gyre Oscillation (NPGO)]. Therefore, important regional differences exist and this information can substantially enhance our ability to predict and prepare for these storms and their impacts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)891-896
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jan 30 2018
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


  • Atmospheric rivers
  • Cluster analysis
  • East Asian subtropical jet
  • Pacific-Japan
  • Teleconnections
  • US West Coast


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