Total Water Vapor Transport Observed in Twelve Atmospheric Rivers over the Northeastern Pacific Ocean Using Dropsondes

Friday, 19 December 2014
F Martin Ralph1, Sam Iacobellis2, Paul J Neiman3, Jason M Cordeira4, J. Ryan Spackman5, Duane Edward Waliser6, Gary A Wick7, Allen B White8 and Chris W Fairall8, (1)Scripps Institute of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA, United States, (2)University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA, United States, (3)NOAA, Boulder, CO, United States, (4)Plymouth State University, Plymouth, NH, United States, (5)Science and Technology Corporation, Boulder, CO, United States, (6)NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, United States, (7)NOAA/ESRL, Boulder, CO, United States, (8)NOAA Boulder, Boulder, CO, United States
Demory et al (2013) recently showed that the global water cycle in climate models, including the magnitude of water vapor transport, is strongly influenced by the model’s spatial resolution. The lack of offshore observations is noted as a serious limitation in determining the correct amount of transport. Due to the key role of atmospheric rivers (ARs) in determining the global distribution of water vapor, quantifying transport from ARs is a high priority. This forms a foundation of the CalWater-2 experiment aimed at sampling many ARs during 2014–2018.

In February 2014, an “early-start” deployment of the NOAA G-IV research aircraft sampled 10 ARs over the northeast Pacific Ocean. On six of these flights, dropsondes were deployed in a line crossing the AR so as to robustly sample the total water vapor transport (TVT). The TVT is defined here as the sum of the vertically integrated horizontal water vapor transport (IVT) in the AR using a baseline that stretches from its warm southern (or eastern) edge to its cool northern (or western) edge. TVT includes both AR-parallel and AR-perpendicular transport. These data double the overall number of such cross-AR airborne samples suitable for calculating TVT. Analysis of TVT for these six new samples, in combination with the six previous samples from the preceding 16 years (from CalJet, WISPAR, and a Hawaii-based campaign), will be shown. A comparison will be made of the AR width and TVT determined using the well-established integrated water vapor (IWV) threshold of 2 cm, versus an IVT threshold of 250 kg m-1 s-1.

Finally, the data from a well sampled case on 13 February 2014 (23 sondes with 75-100 km spacing) will be used to assess the sensitivity of TVT to dropsonde horizontal spacing and vertical resolution. This sensitivity analysis is of practical importance for the upcoming CalWater-2 field campaign where the G-IV will be used to sample many additional AR events, due to the relatively high cost of the dropsondes.