CW3E AR Update: 19 March 2018 Outlook

CW3E AR Update: 19 March Outlook

March 19, 2018

Click here for a pdf of this information.

Update on Atmospheric River Forecast to Impact California Next Week

  • Several changes have occurred in the forecast for the AR that may impact CA this week
  • GFS Ensemble members have continued to converge on Coastal AR conditions
  • While there is more agreement between GFS Ensemble members there are still numerous changes from model run to model run, introducing several uncertainties in the impacts associated with this event

Click IVT or IWV image to see loop of 0-102 hour GFS forecast

Valid 1200 UTC 18 March – 1800 UTC 23 March 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summary provided by C. Hecht, F.M. Ralph, and B. Kawzenuk; 1 PM PT Monday 19 March 2018

*Outlook products are considered experimental

CW3E Post Event Summary: Arizona AR

CW3E AR Update: 16 February Post Event Summary

February 16, 2018

Click here for a pdf of this information.

Atmospheric River Impacts Southern Arizona

  • An AR made landfall over the Mexican Baja peninsula on 14 February 2018
  • Due to the favorable orientation of IVT relative to gaps in elevation along the Baja, the AR was able to penetrate inland and bring AR conditions and precipitation to Southern Arizona
  • Tucson, Arizona received ~1.3 inches of precipitation in 24 hours, ~10% of the average annual precipitation total, with storm total precipitation reaching ~1.5 inches
  • Precipitation from this event more than doubled the water year precipitation to date for the City of Tucson
  • Mt. Lemmon, to the northeast of Tucson, received 8.66 inches of precipitation over the course of the event

SSMI/SSMIS/AMSR2-derived Integrated Water Vapor (IWV)

Valid 0600 UTC 13 February – 1700 UTC 16 February 2018

Images from CIMSS/Univ. of Wisconsin

Click IVT or IWV image to see loop GFS Analysis

Valid 0600 UTC 12 February – 0600 UTC 16 February 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

Summary provided by C. Hecht, F.M. Ralph; 2 PM PT Friday 16 February 2018

*Outlook products are considered experimental

CW3E Publication Notice: Genesis, Pathways, and Terminations of Intense Global Water Vapor Transport in Association with Large-Scale Climate Patterns

CW3E Publication Notice

Genesis, Pathways, and Terminations of Intense Global Water Vapor Transport in Association with Large-Scale Climate Patterns

February 13, 2018

CW3E researchers Scott Sellars and Brian Kawzenuk and director Marty Ralph in collaboration with Phu Nguyen (UC Irvine) and Soroosh Sorooshian recently published a paper in Geophysical Research Letters titled Genesis, Pathways, and Terminations of Intense Global Water Vapor Transport in Association with Large-Scale Climate Patterns (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2017GL075495/full). The study uses the CONNected objECT (CONNECT) algorithm applied to integrated water vapor transport (IVT) data for the period of 1980 to 2016 calculated from Modern-Era Retrospective analysis for Research and Applications version 2 (MERRA-2) to identify objects associated with extreme moisture transport (Sellars et al., 2013, 2015).

The algorithm generated a global dataset of life-cycle records in time and space of evolving strong water vapor transport events. Each object was associated with distinct physical and climatological features such as object size, location, and intensity, various climatological teleconnection patterns, and many other characteristics. This algorithm identified various weather phenomena associated with strong moisture transport such as atmospheric rivers, hurricanes and tropical cyclones, monsoon transport, and various other systems that produced extreme moisture transport. It was illustrated that these events typically occurred in five distinct regions located in the midlatitudes (off the coast of the southeast United States, eastern China, eastern South America, off the southern tip of South Africa, and in the southeastern Pacific Ocean) (Figure 1a). Additional analysis showed distinct genesis and termination regions and global seasonal peak frequency during Northern Hemisphere late fall/winter and Southern Hemisphere winter (Figure 1c and d). In addition, the frequency and location of these events were shown to be strongly modulated by the Arctic Oscillation, Pacific North American Pattern, and the Quasi-Biennial Oscillation. Moreover, a positive linear trend in the annual number of objects was reported, increasing by 3.58 objects year-over-year. The vast dataset produced in this study will be used for various future research opportunities focused on extreme moisture transport and its connection to large-scale climate dynamics.

Figure 1:(a) Total number of IVT objects from January 1980 to August 2016. (b) Average duration in hours of object at each grid cell. (c) The number of objects at genesis (starting) locations for all IVT objects. (d) The number of objects at termination (ending) locations for all IVT objects. The gray areas represent landmass.

Meteorological Conditions Associated with the Deadly 9 January 2018 Debris Flow on the Thomas Fire Burn Area Impacting Montecito, CA: A Preliminary Analysis

Meteorological Conditions Associated with the Deadly 9 January 2018 Debris Flow on the Thomas Fire Burn Area Impacting Montecito, CA: A Preliminary Analysis

January 16, 2018

Nina Oakley1, 2, 3 and Marty Ralph3

1 Western Regional Climate Center, Desert Research Institute, Reno, NV

2 California-Nevada Applications Program, a NOAA RISA Team

3 Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes at Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Summary

  • A period of very intense rainfall associated with a Narrow Cold Frontal Rainband (NCFR) appears to be the primary meteorological trigger for the deadly and destructive post-fire debris flow in and below the Thomas Fire burn area.
  • When a watershed experiences sufficient burn severity during a wildfire, water repellent soils can develop. Rainfall runoff is dramatically increased in these areas as compared to unburned areas. When intense rainfall occurs over the burned watershed, progressive bulking of sediment and debris (ash, rock, burned vegetation) occurs due to the increased runoff, and this debris is mobilized downstream.
  • No antecedent rainfall is necessary for post-fire debris flows. In contrast, landslides (like the deadly La Conchita event that struck nearby in 2005) require sufficient prior rainfall to saturate the soil.
  • The broader, ¬two-day long, storm, within which the NCFR occurred, included a weak-to-moderate atmospheric river and a closed low-pressure system. However, it appears that a narrow, localized band of heavy precipitation along the cold front that passed after the AR, played a primary role in triggering the debris flow.

Figure 1: Prior to the storm it had already been well established that debris flows were a serious potential hazard. This map shows the USGS’ debris flow hazard assessment: Thomas Fire. https://landslides.usgs.gov/hazards/postfire_debrisflow/

Figure 1 shows the likelihood of debris flow occurrence with a design storm for the Thomas Fire. The area above Montecito was evaluated as having a high likelihood of debris flow with the design storm (peak 15 min intensity of 24 mm/h rate, or about 0.25 inches in 15 minutes).

Figure 2: Looking towards burn area in Montecito. Roads have become debris flow paths and houses destroyed. Photo: Ventura County Air Unit.

As of 15 January 2018, reports indicated 20 deaths, and more remained unaccounted for. Many homes, businesses, and vehicles were damaged or destroyed. Highway 101 is not anticipated to open until at least January 22, an additional week after the initial estimate of January 15. Debris from the debris flow traveled all the way from the burn scar in the mountains to the ocean.

Figure 3: Narrow Cold Frontal Rainband that produced high intensity rainfall.

A Narrow Cold Frontal Rainband (NCFR, Figure 3) is a narrow band of intense convection and heavy rainfall along a cold front. An NCFR formed offshore and made landfall at Pt. Conception just after 1 am PST on the 9th. As the NCFR interacted with the land surface and the terrain, it temporarily weakened, broke up, and strengthened again within the Southern California Bight. The NCFR brought high intensity rainfall to the westernmost part of the Thomas Fire burn area around 4 am PST.

Figure 4: Closed low and a double-banded atmospheric river at the time of event (12 UTC/4 am LST 9 Jan 2018).

This event featured a north-south oriented atmospheric river with two moisture bands interacting with a closed low-pressure system (Figure 4). The main AR had moved southeast by the time of the debris flow event. While the NCFR drove the high rain rates that produced the debris flow, the AR helped transport moisture into the area.

Figure 5: Total storm rainfall and precipitation intensity for stations near and within the burn area. Rainfall rates shown are for a 15-minute interval, and are distinct from the 15-minute maximum. Rainfall total image: CNRFC. Rainfall intensity data: SBCPWD (https://rain.cosbpw.net).

Across the Santa Ynez and Topatopa Mountains, approximately 2-5+ inches of rain fell over a 2-day period. This is a moderate storm for the region in terms of precipitation totals. However, the NCFR produced periods of intense rain. The 15-minute rain rates observed at several locations correspond to a 25-50 year event according to NOAA Atlas 14. Carpinteria FS (not shown) reported a 15 min total of 0.86 in, which corresponds to a 100-year event.

Figure 6: Debris flow following Coyote Fire in 1964. Image shows corner of San Ysidro and East Valley Rd in Montecito. Photo credit: “John Bartholomay’s father” (via Facebook).

Post-fire debris flows are relatively common in the area; in 1964, Montecito experienced a damaging debris flow after the 1964 Coyote Fire (Figure 6). Post-fire debris flows and their driving atmospheric features have been catalogued in Oakley et al. (2017). A 10-year study by Young et al. (2017) identified that 50 of 57 cool-season (Oct-Mar) debris flows in California, inclusive of those occurring in both an unburned and post-fire setting, occurred on the day or day after a landfalling AR. Fifteen of 25 of these debris flows occurred over southern California on the day or day after a landfalling AR; data derived from their Figure 2. These studies were based on research supported by California’s Department of Water Resources and the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes in collaboration with the USGS and California Geological Survey in an effort to better understand the role of atmospheric rivers and cut-off lows in creating debris flows and landslides. This storm event has similar characteristics to other storms that have impacted Santa Barbara County. One well documented event was on 3 February 1998 (Neiman et al. 2004), which also documented a landfalling atmospheric river followed by a convective line (NCFR) that produced roughly 0.5 inches of rain in 10 minutes.

Further Reading:

Oakley, N. S., Lancaster, J. T., Kaplan, M. L., & Ralph, F. M. (2017). Synoptic conditions associated with cool season post-fire debris flows in the Transverse Ranges of southern California. Natural Hazards, 88(1), 327-354. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11069-017-28676

Neiman, P. J., Martin Ralph, F., Persson, P. O. G., White, A. B., Jorgensen, D. P., & Kingsmill, D. E. (2004). Modification of fronts and precipitation by coastal blocking during an intense landfalling winter storm in southern California: Observations during CALJET. Monthly weather review, 132(1), 242-273. http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/full/10.1175/1520-0493(2004)132%3C0242%3AMOFAPB%3E2.0.CO%3B2

Young, A.M., K.T. Skelly, and J. Cordeira, 2017: High-impact hydrologic events and atmospheric rivers in California: An investigation using the NCEI Storm Events Database. Geophysical Research Letters, 44, doi:10.1002/2017GL073077. http://cw3e.ucsd.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/YoungSkellyCordeira2017GRL.pdf

CW3E Fieldwork Season Begins

CW3E Fieldwork Season Begins

January 10, 2018

A team of CW3E postdocs, students, staff, and collaborators headed to Northern California on Sunday, 7 January to begin the winter 2018 fieldwork campaign. Throughout this winter season, CW3E plans to release radiosondes, conduct stream surveys, and collect isotope samples. The campaign aims to continue efforts in understanding atmospheric rivers (ARs) and their impacts on the Russian River Watershed. In support of the Forecast Informed Reservoir Operation (FIRO), hydrometeorological data from the campaign will be used to enhance water resources and flood control operations.

The team is launching from two sites: a coastal site, the UC Davis Bodega Bay Marine Laboratory and an inland site in Ukiah, CA, southwest of Lake Mendocino. These launches are being shared with National Weather Service Weather Forecast Offices in Eureka, Sacramento, and Monterey. Peak launches recorded 511 units integrated water vapor transport (IVT) at Bodega Bay (0000Z 9 January 2018) and 389 units IVT at Ukiah (2100Z 8 January 2018).

A radiosonde launch completed in Bodega Bay (0259Z 9 January 2018) shows a sounding with typical AR conditions.


Note: no orographic enhancement present (NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory)


The Regional and Mesoscale Meteorology Branch (RAMMB) of NOAA/NESDIS and Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere (CIRCA)


Leah Campbell and Anna Wilson, Postdocs, prepare to release radiosondes from Bodega Bay


Photograph taken at the mouth of the Russian River after the storm.

Other members of the team have been working on stream installations and measurements, along with isotope sampling. Working with the Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA), CW3E has begun inventorying supplies to continue using the stream gauges that were installed during the previous fieldwork season. They have completed discharge measurements at five of the six streams where gauges are deployed, and will complete measurements at the remaining site today.

The team will continue collecting data and releasing radiosondes throughout this event with plans to return to sample ARs as they occur in the coming months. CW3E will also be partnering with NOAA and the U.S. Air Force, as part of the field campaign, for a series of Reconnaissance (Recon) flights into AR events. The AR Recon missions will start on 25 January, and continue through 28 February. In addition to the NOAA G-IV aircraft, flying out of Seattle for three storms, the campaign will also include two Air Force C-130s that will fly through a total of six storms, overlapping with the NOAA G-IV for three storms. These flights are a valuable method in improving the forecasting of AR conditions offshore and can provide enhanced prediction of AR landfall duration and intensity.

CW3E AR Update: 8 January 2018 Outlook

CW3E AR Update: 8 January 2018 Outlook

January 8, 2018

Click here for a pdf of this information.

AR conditions currently bringing precipitation to the U.S. West Coast

  • The majority of the U.S. West Coast is currently experiencing AR conditions (IVT >250 kg m-1 s-1 and IWV >20 mm) and precipitation associated with these conditions
  • These conditions could lead to precipitation over the majority of CA and southwest OR for the next 36 hours with accumulations up to 7 inches over CA
  • An AR is expected to make landfall over the Pacific Northwest on 10 January 2018 and could produce up to 6 inches of precipitation over the Cascade Mountains

Click IVT or IWV image to see loop of 0-120 hour GFS forecast

Valid 1200 UTC 8 January – 1200 UTC 13 January 2018

NEXRAD Radar Imagery

0000 UTC – 1800 UTC 8 January 2018

CNRFC Observed Precipitation

Raw Data: 0635 UTC – 1835 UTC 8 January 2018

  • Precipitation began over CA around 0400 UTC 8 January
  • As of 1835 UTC 8 January, up to 1.65 inches of precipitation has been observed over coastal CA


 

 

 

 

 

 

Summary provided by B. Kawzenuk, J. Kalansky, and F.M. Ralph; 11 AM PT Monday 8 January 2018

*Outlook products are considered experimental

CW3E AR Update: 3 January 2018 Outlook

CW3E AR Update: 3 January 2018 Outlook

January 3, 2018

Click here for a pdf of this information.

Two systems expected to produce precipitation over the U.S. West Coast in the next week

  • AR conditions (IVT >250 kg m-1 s-1 and IWV >20 mm) are expected over most of the U.S. West Coast over the next two days
  • While AR conditions are forecast for some locations of the USWC, this event is not necessarily an AR due to geometric and spatial structure, but could produce up to 5 inches of precipitation over the Sierra Nevada
  • A second period of AR conditions is expected to make landfall over CA, OR, and WA on 9 January 2018
  • Both periods of AR conditions are currently expected to have southerly oriented IVT which will result in less extreme precipitation

Click IVT or IWV image to see loop of 0-180 hour GFS forecast

Valid 0600 UTC 3 January – 1800 UTC 10 January 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summary provided by B. Kawzenuk, J. Kalansky, and F.M. Ralph; 3 PM PT Wednesday 3 January 2018

*Outlook products are considered experimental

CW3E AR Outlook: 14 December 2017 Ridge Update

CW3E AR Outlook: 14 December 2017 Ridge Update

December 14, 2017

Click here for a pdf of this information.

Dry Conditions Expected to Persist over CA for the Foreseeable Future

  • Persistent high pressure and ridging over the northeast Pacific and USWC is directing moisture transport towards AK and resulting in long periods of dry conditions over the USWC
  • The lack of precipitation over the southern USWC is increasing drought conditions and has resulted in the Northern Sierra 8-station index dropping below normal accumulations to date
  • While ridging is forecast to persist, AR conditions are currently forecast to impact the West Coast but the unfavorable north/northwesterly orientation of IVT will result in little or no precipitation over CA
  • Click IVT or IWV image to see loop of 0-180 hour GFS forecast

    Valid 1200 UTC 14 December – 0000 UTC 22 December 2017

    Click 500-hPa Geopotential Height & Vorticity image to see loop of 0-180 hour GFS forecast


     

     

     

     

     

     

    Summary provided by C. Hecht, J. Cordeira B. Kawzenuk, J. Kalansky, and F.M. Ralph; 1 PM PT Thursday 14 December 2017

    *Outlook products are considered experimental

CW3E Publication Notice: Flood runoff in relation to water vapor transport by atmospheric rivers over the western United States

CW3E Publication Notice

Flood runoff in relation to water vapor transport by atmospheric rivers over the western United States

December 1, 2017

CW3E long-time collaborator, Mike Dettinger, and USGS colleague, recently published a paper in Geophysical Research Letter titled: Flood runoff in relation to water vapor transport by atmospheric rivers over the western United States.

In the study they analyzed historical flood flows at over 5000 streamgages across the western US in relation to landfalling atmospheric-river storms. Specifically, they focused on the probabilities of floods flows occurring as conditioned by the presence of an atmospheric river and by the water vapor-transport rates in the atmospheric river. Through this analysis they were able to show that stronger the atmospheric river, the more likely are flood flows to develop.

Along the west coast, these peak flows coincide with atmospheric rivers about 80+% of the time, falling off to about 40-50% of the time in southern California, and falling off the farther inland the river basin (with notable regional anomalies, e.g., around Phoenix and in northern Idaho).