Alan M. Rhoades, Andrew D. Jones, Abhishekh Srivastava, Huanping Huang, Travis A. O’Brien, Christina M. Patricola, Paul A. Ullrich, Michael Wehner, and Yang Zhou.


September 2020

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


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,‐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.