Extending the CW3E Atmospheric River Scale to the Polar Regions

Zhang, Zhenhai; Ralph, F. Martin; Zou, Xun; Kawzenuk, Brian; Zheng, Minghua; Gorodetskaya, Irina V.; Rowe, Penny M.; Bromwich, David H.

Atmospheric rivers (ARs) are the primary mechanism for transporting water vapor from low latitudes to polar regions, playing a significant role as drivers of extreme weather, such as heavy precipitation and heat waves in both the Arctic and Antarctica. With the rapidly growing interest in polar ARs during the past decade, it is imperative to establish an objective framework to quantify the strength and impact of these ARs for both scientific research and practical application. The AR scale introduced by Ralph et al. (2019) ranks ARs based on the duration of AR conditions and the intensity. However, the thresholds of integrated water vapor transport (IVT) used to rank ARs are selected based on the IVT climatology at middle latitudes. These thresholds are insufficient for polar regions due to the substantially lower temperature and moisture content. In this study, we analyze the IVT climatology in polar regions, focusing on the coasts of Antarctica and Greenland. Then we introduce an extended version of the AR scale tuned to polar regions by adding lower IVT thresholds of 100, 150, and 200 kg m -1 s -1 to the standard AR scale, which starts at 250 kg m -1 s -1. The polar AR scale is utilized to examine AR frequency, seasonality, trends, and associated precipitation and surface melt over the Antarctic and Greenland coasts. The polar AR scale better characterizes the strength and impacts of ARs in the Antarctic and Arctic regions, and has the potential to enhance communications across observation, research, and forecasts for polar regions.

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Zhang, Zhenhai / Ralph, F. Martin / Zou, Xun / et al: Extending the CW3E Atmospheric River Scale to the Polar Regions. 2024. Copernicus Publications.

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