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The role of nearshore air-sea interactions for landfalling atmospheric rivers on the U.S. West Coast
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  • Samuel T Bartusek,
  • Hyodae Seo,
  • Caroline C Ummenhofer,
  • John Steffen
Samuel T Bartusek
Princeton University

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Hyodae Seo
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
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Caroline C Ummenhofer
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
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John Steffen
Woods Hole Oceanographic Instituion
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Research on Atmospheric Rivers (ARs) has focused primarily on AR (thermo)dynamics and hydrological impacts over land. However, the evolution and potential role of nearshore air-sea fluxes during landfalling ARs are not well documented. Here, we examine synoptic evolutions of nearshore latent heat flux (LHF) during strong late-winter landfalling ARs (1979–2017) using 138 over-shelf buoys along the U. S. west coast. Composite evolutions show that ARs typically receive upward (absolute) LHF from the coastal ocean. LHF is small during landfall due to weak air-sea humidity gradients but is strongest (30–50 W/m^2 along the coast) 1–3 days before/after landfall. During El Niño winters, southern-coastal LHF strengthens, coincident with stronger ARs. A decomposition of LHF reveals that sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies modulated by the El Niño—Southern Oscillation dominate interannual LHF variations under ARs, suggesting a potential role for nearshore SST and LHF influencing the intensity of landfalling ARs.
28 Mar 2021Published in Geophysical Research Letters volume 48 issue 6. 10.1029/2020GL091388