Dynamic and thermodynamic modulators of European atmospheric rivers

Breanna L. Zavadoff, Ben P. Kirtman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Large-scale analysis of the dynamic and thermodynamic properties of landfalling atmospheric rivers (ARs) over western Europe is performed utilizing 38 years of the Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications, version 2 (MERRA-2), reanalysis dataset. A climatology of landfalling ARs from 1980 to 2017 is developed using a combination of integrated water vapor transport (IVT) calculations and a detection algorithm, which identified 578 ARs over the study period. Examination of the upper-level potential vorticity (PV) fields shows that 73% of these AR events are related to anticyclonic Rossby wave breaking (RWB), a dynamic feature which has been shown to play a role in AR strength and structure. Atmospheric river variability is also found to be closely tied to jet-stream latitude modulation by the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), such that during a positive NAO the North Atlantic jet is shifted north, creating an environment that is more favorable for anticyclonic RWB and AR landfalls over northern Europe, and during a negative NAO it is shifted south, creating such an environment over southern Europe.Through the use of linear regression analysis, AR strength is shown to be dependent on atmospheric moisture availability, which is found to increase as sea surface temperatures (SSTs) increase. Therefore, in a warming climate warmer SSTs leading to higher atmospheric moisture availability will result in an increase in the average strength and intensity of ARs over western Europe-a trend that has already been observed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4167-4185
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 15 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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