Observed Hydrologic Impacts of Landfalling Atmospheric Rivers in the Salt and Verde River Basins of Arizona, United States

Eleonora M.C. Demaria, Francina Dominguez, Huancui Hu, Gerd von Glinski, Marcos Robles, Jonathan Skindlov, James Walter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Scopus citations

Abstract

Atmospheric rivers (ARs), narrow atmospheric water vapor corridors, can contribute substantially to winter precipitation in the semiarid Southwest U.S., where natural ecosystems and humans compete for over-allocated water resources. We investigate the hydrologic impacts of 122 ARs that occurred in the Salt and Verde river basins in northeastern Arizona during the cold seasons from 1979 to 2009. We focus on the relationship between precipitation, snow water equivalent (SWE), soil moisture, and extreme flooding. During the cold season (October through March) ARs contribute an average of 25%/29% of total seasonal precipitation for the Salt/Verde river basins, respectively. However, they contribute disproportionately to total heavy precipitation and account for 64%/72% of extreme total daily precipitation (exceeding the 98th percentile). Excess precipitation during AR occurrences contributes to snow accumulation; on the other hand, warmer than normal temperatures during AR landfallings are linked to rain-on-snow processes, an increase in the basins' area contributing to runoff generation, and higher melting lines. Although not all AR events are linked to extreme flooding in the basins, they do account for larger runoff coefficients. On average, ARs generate 43% of the annual maximum flows for the period studied, with 25% of the events exceeding the 10 year return period. Our analysis shows that the devastating 1993 flooding event in the region was caused by AR events. These results illustrate the importance of AR activity on the hydrology of inland semiarid regions: ARs are critical for water resources, but they can also lead to extreme flooding that affects infrastructure and human activities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10025-10042
Number of pages18
JournalWater Resources Research
Volume53
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2017

Keywords

  • atmospheric rivers
  • extremes
  • flooding
  • precipitation
  • semiarid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Observed Hydrologic Impacts of Landfalling Atmospheric Rivers in the Salt and Verde River Basins of Arizona, United States'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this