From California’s Extreme Drought to Major Flooding: Evaluating and Synthesizing Experimental Seasonal and Subseasonal Forecasts of Landfalling Atmospheric Rivers and Extreme Precipitation during Winter 2022/23

DeFlorio, Michael J.; Sengupta, Agniv; Castellano, Christopher M.; Zhang, Zhenhai; Gershunov, Alexander; Guirguis, Kristen; Luna Niño, Rosa; Clemesha, Rachel E. S.; Pan, Ming; Xiao, Mu; Kawzenuk, Brian; Gibson, Peter B.; Scheftic, William; Broxton, Patrick D.; Switanek, Matthew B.; Yuan, Jing; Dettinger, Michael D.; Hecht, Chad W.; Cayan, Daniel R.; Cornuelle, Bruce D.

California experienced a historic run of nine consecutive landfalling atmospheric rivers (ARs) in three weeks’ time during winter 2022/23. Following three years of drought from 2020 to 2022, intense landfalling ARs across California in December 2022–January 2023 were responsible for bringing reservoirs back to historical averages and producing damaging floods and debris flows. In recent years, the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes and collaborating institutions have developed and routinely provided to end users peer-reviewed experimental seasonal (1–6 month lead time) and subseasonal (2–6 week lead time) prediction tools for western U.S. ARs, circulation regimes, and precipitation. Here, we evaluate the performance of experimental seasonal precipitation forecasts for winter 2022/23, along with experimental subseasonal AR activity and circulation forecasts during the December 2022 regime shift from dry conditions to persistent troughing and record AR-driven wetness over the western United States. Experimental seasonal precipitation forecasts were too dry across Southern California (likely due to their overreliance on La Niña), and the observed above-normal precipitation across Northern and Central California was underpredicted. However, experimental subseasonal forecasts skillfully captured the regime shift from dry to wet conditions in late December 2022 at 2–3 week lead time. During this time, an active MJO shift from phases 4 and 5 to 6 and 7 occurred, which historically tilts the odds toward increased AR activity over California. New experimental seasonal and subseasonal synthesis forecast products, designed to aggregate information across institutions and methods, are introduced in the context of this historic winter to provide situational awareness guidance to western U.S. water managers.


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Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society
American Meteorological Society

More About This Work

Academic Units
International Research Institute for Climate and Society
Published Here
March 13, 2024

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