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The Shifting Scales of Western U.S. Landfalling Atmospheric Rivers Under Climate Change

  • Author(s): Rhoades, AM
  • Jones, AD
  • Srivastava, A
  • Huang, H
  • O'Brien, TA
  • Patricola, CM
  • Ullrich, PA
  • Wehner, M
  • Zhou, Y
  • et al.
Abstract

Atmospheric rivers (ARs) can be a boon and bane to water resource managers as they have the ability to replenish water reserves, but they can also generate million-to-billion-dollar flood damages. To investigate how anthropogenic climate change may influence AR characteristics in the coastal western United States by end century, we employ a suite of novel tools such as variable resolution in the Community Earth System Model (VR-CESM), the TempestExtremes AR detection algorithm, and the Ralph, Rutz, et al. (2019, https://doi.org/10.1175/BAMS-D-18-0023.1) AR category scale. We show that end-century ARs primarily shift from being “mostly or primarily beneficial” to “mostly or primarily hazardous” with a concomitant sharpening and intensification of winter season precipitation totals. Changes in precipitation totals are due to a significant increase in AR (+260%) rather than non-AR (+7%) precipitation, largely through increases in the most intense category of AR events and a decrease in the interval between landfalling ARs.

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