Experimental observations collected during meteorological field studies conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration near the Russian River of coastal northern California are combined with SSM/I satellite observations offshore to examine the role of landfalling atmospheric rivers in the creation of flooding. While recent studies have documented the characteristics and importance of narrow regions of strong meridional water vapor transport over the eastern Pacific Ocean (recently referred to as atmospheric rivers), this study describes their impact when they strike the U.S. West Coast. A detailed case study is presented, along with an assessment of all 7 floods on the Russian River since the experimental data were first available in October 1997. In all 7 floods, atmospheric river conditions were present and caused heavy rainfall through orographic precipitation. Not only do atmospheric rivers play a crucial role in the global water budget, they can also lead to heavy coastal rainfall and flooding, and thus represent a key phenomenon linkingweather and climate. Copyright 2006 by the American Geophysical Union.
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Flooding on California's Russian River: Role of atmospheric rivers