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Rain-on-snow events pose a significant flood hazard in the western United States. This study provides a description of the spatial and temporal variability of the frequency of rain-on-snow events for 4318 sites in the western United States during water years (October through September) 1949-2003. Rain-on-snow events are found to be most common during the months of October through May; however, at sites in the interior western United States, rain-on-snow events can occur in substantial numbers as late as June and as early as September. An examination of the temporal variability of October through May rain-on-snow events indicates a mixture of increasing and decreasing trends in rain-on-snow events across the western...
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Debris flows, also known as mudslides, are composed gravity-driven mixtures of sediment and water that travel through steep channels, over open hillslopes, and the like. Addressing this issue, US Geological Survey (USGS) and NOAA have established a debris-flow warning system that has the ability to monitor and forecast precipitation and issue timely weather hazard warning. In 2005, this joint NOAA-USGS prototype debris-flow warning system was issued in Southern California and as a result, it has provided valuable information to emergency managers in affected communities.
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Century-long annual precipitation time series at 168 stations in the central United States are analyzed with special attention given to interdecadal variations. The results show statistically significant precipitation variations of interdecadal timescales in the region. In particular, one variation has a quasi 20-yr period, and another one possesses a quasi 12-yr period.
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The Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Sciences, Inc., established the Hydrologic Measurement Facility to transform watershed-scale hydrologic research by facilitating access to advanced instrumentation and expertise that would not otherwise be available to individual investigators. We outline a committee-based process that determined which suites of instrumentation best fit the needs of the hydrological science community and a proposed mechanism for the governance and distribution of these sensors. Here, we also focus on how these proposed suites of instrumentation can be used to address key scientific challenges, including scaling water cycle science in time and space, broadening the...
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We describe the expansion of a publicly available archive of downscaled climate and hydrology projections for the United States. Those studying or planning to adapt to future climate impacts demand downscaled climate model output for local or regional use. The archive we describe attempts to fulfill this need by providing data in several formats, selectable to meet user needs. Our archive has served as a resource for climate impacts modelers, water managers, educators, and others. Over 1,400 individuals have transferred more than 50 TB of data from the archive. In response to user demands, the archive has expanded from monthly downscaled data to include daily data to facilitate investigations of phenomena sensitive...
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We thank Dr. Lilly for his comment (Lilly 2001) concerning the possibility that the trend toward early lilac and honeysuckle bloom that we noted in our recent (Cayan et al. 2001) study may have been caused by urbanization. For some individual lilac or honeysuckle bushes, it is very possible that such an urban influence could be operating. Unfortunately, because the phenological network has vanished after it was retired in 1994, it is virtually impossible to examine this directly from site inspections. However, the circumstantial evidence that this trend is a symptom of regional and larger-scale climate fluctuations or changes, not from local urban effects, is quite strong, as explained below.
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In 2011, East Africa faced a tragic food crisis that led to famine conditions in parts of Somalia and severe food shortages in parts of Ethiopia and Somalia. While many nonclimatic factors contributed to this crisis (high global food prices, political instability, and chronic poverty, among others) failed rains in both the boreal winter of 2010/11 and the boreal spring of 2011 played a critical role. The back-to-back failures of these rains, which were linked to the dominant La Niña climate and warm SSTs in the central and southeastern Indian Ocean, were particularly problematic since they followed poor rainfall during the spring and summer of 2008 and 2009. In fact, in parts of East Africa, in recent years, there...
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The Colorado River is the primary water source for more than 30 million people in the United States and Mexico. Recent studies that project streamf low changes in the Colorado River all project annual declines, but the magnitude of the projected decreases range from less than 10% to 45% by the mid-twenty-first century. To understand these differences, we address the questions the management community has raised: Why is there such a wide range of projections of impacts of future climate change on Colorado River streamflow, and how should this uncertainty be interpreted? We identify four major sources of disparities among studies that arise from both methodological and model differences. In order of importance, these...
The flooding in the lower basin of the Colorado River during the spring and summer of 1983 led to discussion of the management of the heavy spring runoff from the upper basin. This analysis stresses that the reasons for the flooding go beyond the climatic events of the year and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's response to them. It is argued that the flooding is the result of the convergence of three factors: 1) the 17-year period of filling Lake Powell (Glen Canyon Dam) has ended and the system of water storage reservoirs on the river now considered full; 2) during the filling period, physical encroachment into the lower basin flood plain accelerated; and 3) the climatic variability experienced in the Colorado River...
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The Fifth Prospectus Development Team of the U.S. Weather Research Program was charged to identify and delineate emerging research opportunities relevant to the prediction of local weather, flooding, and coastal ocean currents associated with landfalling U.S. hurricanes specifically, and tropical cyclones in general. Central to this theme are basic and applied research topics, including rapid intensity change, initialization of and parameterization in dynamical models, coupling of atmospheric and oceanic models, quantitative use of satellite information, and mobile observing strategies to acquire observations to evaluate and validate predictive models. To improve the necessary understanding of physical processes...
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Since the term “atmospheric river” (AR) first appeared in modern scientific literature in the early 1990s, it has generated debate about the meaning of the concept. A common popular definition is something along the lines of a “river in the sky,” albeit as a river of water vapor rather than of liquid. This general concept has come into regular use in the western United States and in some other regions affected by ARs, partly due to its use by media, and due to the intuitive nature of the concept. However, over the last 20 years there have been varying perspectives on the term in the technical community. These perspectives range roughly from considering it duplicative of preexisting concepts, such as the warm conveyor...
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Despite flash flooding being one of the most deadly and costly weather-related natural hazards worldwide, individual datasets to characterize them in the United States are hampered by limited documentation and can be difficult to access. This study is the first of its kind to assemble, reprocess, describe, and disseminate a georeferenced U.S. database providing a long-term, detailed characterization of flash flooding in terms of spatiotemporal behavior and specificity of impacts. The database is composed of three primary sources: 1) the entire archive of automated discharge observations from the U.S. Geological Survey that has been reprocessed to describe individual flooding events, 2) flash-flooding reports collected...
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Recent decreases in snow and sea ice cover in the high northern latitudes are among the most notable indicators of climate change. Northern Hemisphere sea ice extent for the year as a whole was the third lowest on record dating back to 1973, behind 1995 (lowest) and 1990 (second lowest; Hadley Center–NCEP). September sea ice extent, which is at the end of the summer melt season and is typically the month with the lowest sea ice extent of the year, has decreased by about 19% since the late 1970s (Fig. 5.2), with a record minimum observed in 2002 (Serreze et al. 2003). A record low extent also occurred in spring (Chapman 2005, personal communication), and 2004 marked the third consecutive year of anomalously extreme...
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Aeroecology is an emerging scientific discipline that integrates atmospheric science, Earth science, geography, ecology, computer science, computational biology, and engineering to further the understanding of biological patterns and processes. The unifying concept underlying this new transdisciplinary field of study is a focus on the planetary boundary layer and lower free atmosphere (i.e., the aerosphere), and the diversity of airborne organisms that inhabit and depend on the aerosphere for their existence. Here, we focus on the role of radars and radar networks in aeroecological studies. Radar systems scanning the atmosphere are primarily used to monitor weather conditions and track the location and movements...
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Fluctuations in spring climate in the western United States over the last 4-5 decades are described by examining changes in the blooming of plants and the timing of snowmelt-runoff pulses. The two measures of spring's onset that are employed are the timing of first bloom of lilac and honeysuckle bushes from a long-term cooperative phonological network, and the timing of the first major pulse of snowmelt recorded from high-elevation streams. Both measures contain year-to-year fluctuations, with typical year-to-year fluctuations at a given site of one to three weeks. These fluctuations are spatially coherent, forming regional patterns that cover most of the west. Fluctuations in lilac first bloom dates are highly...
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The annual ratio of snow to total precipitation (S/P) for 11 out of 21 US Historical Climatology Network (USHCN) sites in New England decreased significantly from 1949 through 2000. One possible explanation for the observed decrease in S/P ratio is that their temperature increased in New England during the 20th century. The results are consistent with published reports indicating lengthening of the growing season in New England.
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Mountain glaciers and ice caps cover an area of over 400 000 km2 in the Arctic, and are a major influence on global sea level (Gardner et al. 2011, 2013; Jacob et al. 2012). They gain mass by snow accumulation and lose mass by meltwater runoff. Where they terminate in water (ocean or lake), they also lose mass by iceberg calving. The climatic mass balance (Bclim, the difference between annual snow accumulation and annual meltwater runoff) is a widely used index of how glaciers respond to climate variability and change. The total mass balance (ΔM) is defined as the difference between annual snow accumulation and annual mass losses (by iceberg calving plus runoff).
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In December–February (DJF) of 2015/16, a strong El Niño (Niño‑3.4 SST >29°C) contributed to a severe drought over southern Africa (SA; Funk et al. 2016). A 9-million ton cereal deficit resulted in 26 mil‑ lion people in need of humanitarian assistance (SADC 2016). While SA rainfall has a well-documented nega‑ tive teleconnection with Niño‑3.4 SSTs (Hoell et al. 2015, 2017; Jury et al. 1994; Lindesay 1988; Misra 2003; Nicholson and Entekhabi 1987; Nicholson and Kim 1997; Reason et al. 2000; Rocha and Simmonds 1997), the link between climate change and El Niño remains unclear (Christensen et al. 2013) due to the large natural variability of ENSO SSTs (Wittenberg 2009), uncertainties surrounding measurements and trends...


map background search result map search result map A Unified Flash Flood Database across the United States An enhanced archive facilitating climate impacts analysis A Unified Flash Flood Database across the United States An enhanced archive facilitating climate impacts analysis