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Atmospheric River Sequences as Indicators of Hydrologic Hazard in Present and Future Climates
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  • Corinne Bowers,
  • Katherine A. Serafin,
  • Kai-Chih Tseng,
  • Jack W. Baker
Corinne Bowers
Stanford University

Corresponding Author:cbowers@stanford.edu

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Katherine A. Serafin
University of Florida
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Kai-Chih Tseng
National Taiwan University
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Jack W. Baker
Stanford University
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When multiple atmospheric rivers (ARs) occur in rapid succession, the compound effect on the hydrologic system can lead to more flooding and damage than would be expected from the individual events. This temporally compounding risk is a source of growing concern for water managers in California. We present a novel moving average-based definition of AR “sequences” that identifies the time periods of elevated hydrologic hazard that occur during and after consecutive AR events. This marks the first quantitative evaluation of when temporal compounding is contributing to AR flood risk. We also assess projected changes in sequence frequency, intensity, and duration in California under both intermediate (SSP2-4.5) and very high (SSP5-8.5) emissions scenarios. Sequence frequency increases over time and is fairly uniform across the state, with the largest changes occurring by the end of the century (+0.72 sequences/year in SSP2-4.5, +1.13 sequences/year in SSP5-8.5). Sequence intensity and duration both see increases in the central tendencies and extreme values of their respective distributions relative to the historic baselines. In particular, “super-sequence” events longer than sixty days are projected to occur 2-3x more frequently and to emerge in places that have never seen them in the historical record. In a world where California precipitation is becoming more erratic and temporally concentrated, our definition of sequences will help identify when and where hydrologic impacts will be most extreme, which can in turn support better management of the state’s highly variable water resources and inform future flood mitigation strategies.
07 Feb 2023Submitted to ESS Open Archive
09 Feb 2023Published in ESS Open Archive