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ARTMIP-early start comparison of atmospheric river detection tools: how many atmospheric rivers hit northern California’s Russian River watershed?

Anna M. Wilson, Gary A. Wick, Tamara Shulgina, Scott Sellars, Jonathan J. Rutz, F. Martin Ralph, Tashiana Osborne, Kyle M. Nardi, Maryam A. Lamjiri, Brian Kawzenuk, Bin Guan, Alexander Gershunov, Elizabeth A. Barnes | September 10th, 2018

Many atmospheric river detection tools (ARDTs) have now been developed. However, their relative performance is not well documented. This paper compares a diverse set of ARDTs by applying them to a single location where a unique 12-year-long time-series from an atmospheric river observatory at Bodega Bay, California is available. The study quantifies the sensitivity of the diagnosed number, duration, and intensity of ARs at this location to the choice of ARDT, and to the choice of reanalysis data set. The ARDTs compared here represent a range of methods that vary in their use of different variables, fixed vs. percentile-based thresholds, geometric shape requirements, Eulerian vs. Lagrangian approaches, and reanalyses. The ARDTs were evaluated first using the datasets documented in their initial publication, which found an average annual count of 19 ± 7. Applying the ARDTs to the same reanalysis dataset yields an average annual count of 19 ± 4. Applying a single ARDT to three reanalyses of varying grid sizes (0.5°, 1.0°–2.5°) showed little sensitivity to the choice of reanalysis. While the annual average AR event count varied by about a factor of two (10–25 per year) depending on the ARDT, average AR duration and maximum intensity varied by less than ± 10%, i.e., 24 ± 2 h duration; 458 ± 44 kg m− 1 s− 1maximum IVT. ARDTs that use a much higher threshold for integrated vapor transport were compared separately, and yielded just 1–2 ARs annually on average. Generally, ARDTs that include either more stringent geometric criteria or higher thresholds identified the fewest AR events.


atmospheric rivers, climate change, flood management, modeling, water supply forecasting