Ralph, F. Martin, Neiman, Paul J., Wick, Gary A., Gutman, Seth I., Dettinger, Michael D., Cayan, Daniel R., White, Allen B.

Geophysical Research Letters

Published date July 1, 2006

Flooding on California's Russian River: Role of atmospheric rivers

  • Examines the role of landfalling atmospheric rivers in the creation of flooding using experimental observations collected during meteorological field studies conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration near the Russian River of coastal northern California combined with SSM/I satellite observations offshore
  • States that recent studies have documented the characteristics and importance of narrow regions of strong meridional water vapor transport over the eastern Pacific Ocean (recently referred to as atmospheric rivers)
  • This study describes their impact when they strike the U.S. West Coast
  • Presents a detailed case study, along with an assessment of all 7 floods on the Russian River since the experimental data were first available in October 1997
  • Finds that, in all 7 floods, atmospheric river conditions were present and caused heavy rainfall through orographic precipitation
  • Finds that, not only do atmospheric rivers play a crucial role in the global water budget, they can also lead to heavy coastal rainfall and flooding, and thus represent a key phenomenon linking weather and climate