03 Jul 2023
 | 03 Jul 2023
Status: this preprint is open for discussion.

Linkages between atmospheric rivers and humid heat across the United States

Colin Raymond, Anamika Shreevastava, Emily Slinskey, and Duane Waliser

Abstract. The global increase in atmospheric water vapour due to climate change tends to heighten the dangers associated with both humid heat and heavy precipitation. Process-linked correlations between these two extremes, particularly those which cause them to occur close together in space or time, are of special concern for efforts to understand and mitigate their impacts. Here we investigate how atmospheric rivers relate to the risk of summertime humid heat in the US. We find that the hazards of atmospheric rivers and humid heat often occur in close proximity, most notably across the northern third of the US. In this region, high levels of water vapour — resulting from the spatially organised horizontal moisture plumes that characterise atmospheric rivers — act to amplify humid heat, generally during the transition from dry high-pressure ridge conditions to wet low-pressure trough conditions. In contrast, the Southeast, Southwest, and Northwest US tend to experience atmospheric rivers and humid heat separately, representing an important negative correlation of joint risk.

Colin Raymond et al.

Status: open (until 13 Oct 2023)

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Colin Raymond et al.

Colin Raymond et al.


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Short summary
How can we systematically understand what causes high levels of atmospheric humidity and thus heat stress? Here we argue that atmospheric rivers can be a useful tool, based on our finding that in several US regions, atmospheric rivers and humid heat occur close together in space and time. Most typically, an atmospheric river transports moisture which heightens heat stress, with precipitation following a day later. These effects tend to be larger for stronger and more extensive systems.