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New Publication Explores Atmospheric River Impacts in the Southwest

Monday, 20 February 2017

In the southwestern U.S., the meteorological phenomenon known as atmospheric rivers (ARs) has gained increasing attention due to its strong connections to floods, snowpacks, and water supplies in the West Coast states. Relatively less is known about the ecological implications of ARs, particularly in the interior Southwest, where AR storms are less common. Understanding their ecological impacts may provide opportunities to better predict responses to climate change.

A new paper out in Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences seeks to address this gap in knowledge. Initial findings show that precipitation from winter ARs make a significant difference in warm-season vegetation greenness across large areas of the southwest, and that the latitude of landfall makes a big difference as to where those connections are expressed. Additionally, the kind of vegetation cover also matters; forests show a lot less same-year response to AR precipitation than do grasslands and shrublands. Similarly, AR precipitation matters in terms of wildfire in the following warm season.

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