14 Mar 2024
 | 14 Mar 2024

Algorithmically Detected Rain-on-Snow Flood Events in Different Climate Datasets: A Case Study of the Susquehanna River Basin

Colin M. Zarzycki, Benjamin D. Ascher, Alan M. Rhoades, and Rachel R. McCrary

Abstract. Rain-on-snow (RoS) events in regions of ephemeral snowpack – such as the northeastern United States – can be key drivers of cool-season flooding. We describe an automated algorithm for detecting basin-scale RoS events in gridded climate data by generating an area-averaged time-series and then searching for periods of concurrent precipitation, surface runoff, and snowmelt exceeding pre-defined thresholds. When evaluated using historical data over the Susquehanna River Basin (SRB), the technique credibly finds RoS events in published literature and flags events that are followed by anomalously high streamflow as measured by gage data along the river. When comparing four different datasets representing the same 21-year period, we find large differences in RoS event magnitude and frequency, primarily driven by differences in estimated surface runoff and snowmelt. Using dataset-specific thresholds improves agreement between datasets but does not account for all discrepancies. We show that factors such as meteorological forcing and coupling frequency as well as choice of land surface model play roles in how data products capture these compound extremes and suggest care is to be taken when climate datasets are used by stakeholders for operational decision-making.

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Colin M. Zarzycki, Benjamin D. Ascher, Alan M. Rhoades, and Rachel R. McCrary

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-3094', Anonymous Referee #1, 31 Mar 2024
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC1', Colin Zarzycki, 20 Jun 2024
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-3094', Keith Musselman, 02 May 2024
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC2', Colin Zarzycki, 20 Jun 2024
Colin M. Zarzycki, Benjamin D. Ascher, Alan M. Rhoades, and Rachel R. McCrary
Colin M. Zarzycki, Benjamin D. Ascher, Alan M. Rhoades, and Rachel R. McCrary


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Short summary
We developed an automated workflow to detect rain-on-snow events, which cause flooding in the northeastern U.S., in climate data. Analyzing the Susquehanna River Basin, this technique identified known events affecting river flow. Comparing four gridded datasets revealed variations in event frequency and severity, driven by different snowmelt and runoff estimates. This highlights the need for accurate climate data in flood management and risk prediction for these compound extremes.