Last updated October 10, 2018

Insights into Atmospheric Contributors to Urban Flash Flooding across the United States Using an Analysis of Rawinsonde Data and Associated Calculated Parameters

  • Analyzes hydrometeorological aspects of major urban flood events in the United States from 1977 through 2014 caused by locally heavy precipitation
  • Uses datasets including upper-air soundings and climatological precipitable water (PW) distributions
  • Finds that major urban flood events are associated with extremely anomalous PW values, many of which exceeded the 99th percentile of the associated climatological dataset and all of which were greater than 150% of the climatological mean values
  • Also finds, however, that of the 40 cases examined in this study, only 15 had PW values that exceeded 50.4 mm (2 in.), illustrating the importance of including the location-specific PW climatology in a PW analysis relevant to the potential for flash floods
  • Events revealed that, despite geographic location and time of year, most had a warm cloud depth of at least 6 km, which is defined here as the layer between the lifting condensation level and the height of the −10°C level
  • Calculates a “composite” flood sounding, which revealed a characteristically tropical structure, despite cases related to tropical cyclones being excluded from the study