24 Feb 2023
 | 24 Feb 2023
Status: this preprint is open for discussion and under review for Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP).

Influence of atmospheric rivers and associated weather systems on precipitation in the Arctic

Melanie Lauer, Annette Rinke, Irina Gorodetskaya, Michael Sprenger, Mario Mech, and Susanne Crewell

Abstract. In this study, we analyse the contribution of Atmospheric Rivers (ARs), cyclones, and fronts to the total precipitation in the Arctic. We focus on two distinct periods of different weather conditions from two airborne campaigns: ACLOUD (May/June 2017) and AFLUX (March/April 2019). Both campaigns covered the northern North Atlantic sector, the area in the Arctic that is affected by the highest precipitation rates. Using ERA5 reanalysis, we identify pronounced regional anomalies with enhanced precipitation rates compared to the climatology during ACLOUD due to these weather systems, whereas during AFLUX enhanced precipitation rates occur over most of the area.

We have established a new methodology, that allows us to analyse the contribution of ARs, cyclones, and fronts to precipitation rates based on ERA5 reanalysis and different detection algorithms. Here, we distinguish whether these systems occur co-located or separately. The contributions differ seasonally. During ACLOUD (early summer), the precipitation rates are mainly associated with AR- (40 %) and front-related (55 %) components, especially if they are connected, while cyclone-related components (22 %) play a minor role. However, during AFLUX (early spring) the precipitation is mainly associated with cyclone-related components (62 %). For both seasons, snow is the dominant form of precipitation, and the small rain occurrence is almost all associated with ARs. About one-third of the precipitation can not be attributed to one of the weather systems, the so-called residual. While the residual can be found more frequently as convective than as large-scale precipitation, the rare occasion of convective precipitation (roughly 20 %) can not completely explain the residual. The fraction of precipitation classified as residual is reduced significantly when a precipitation threshold is applied that is often used to eliminate "artificial" precipitation. However, a threshold of 0.1 mm h−1 reduces the total accumulated precipitation by a factor of two (ACLOUD) and three (AFLUX) especially affecting light precipitation over the Arctic Ocean. We also show the dependence of the results on the choice of the detection algorithm serving as a first estimate of the uncertainty.

In the future, we aim to apply the methodology to the full ERA5 record to investigate whether the differences found between the campaign periods are typical for the different seasons in which they were performed and whether any trends in precipitation associated with these weather systems can be identified.

Melanie Lauer et al.

Status: open (until 07 Apr 2023)

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  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-261', Anonymous Referee #1, 13 Mar 2023 reply

Melanie Lauer et al.


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Short summary
We present a new method to analyse the influence of Atmospheric Rivers (ARs), cyclones, and fronts on the precipitation in the Arctic, based on two campaigns ACLOUD (early summer 2017) and AFLUX (early spring 2019). There are first indications for seasonal differences: In early summer, the precipitation is mostly related to ARs and fronts, especially when they are co-located, whereas in early spring, cyclones are isolated from ARs and fronts. contributed most to the precipitation.