Influences of Appalachian orography on heavy rainfall and rainfall variability associated with the passage of hurricane Isabel by ensemble simulations

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This study focuses on the heavy rainfall event associated with hurricane Isabel’s (2003) passage over the Appalachian mountains of the eastern United States. Specifically, an ensemble consisting of two groups of simulations using the Weather Research and Forecasting model (WRF), with and without topography, is performed to investigate the orographic influences on heavy rainfall and rainfall variability. In general, the simulated ensemble mean with full terrain is able to reproduce the key observed 24-h rainfall amount and distribution, while the flat-terrain mean lacks in this respect. In fact, 30-h rainfall amounts are reduced by 75% with the removal of topography. Rainfall variability is also significantly increased with the presence of orography. Further analysis shows that the complex interaction between the hurricane and terrain along with contributions from varied microphysics, cumulus parametrization, and planetary boundary layer schemes have a pronounced effect on rainfall and rainfall variability. This study follows closely with a previous study, but for a different TC case of Isabel (2003). It is an important sensitivity test for a different TC in a very different environment. This study reveals that the rainfall variability behaves similarly, even with different settings of the environment.

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This study is supported by the National Science Foundation Awards AGS-1265783, OCI-1126543, and CNS-1429464.

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Correspondence to Liping Liu.

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Responsible Editor: M. Kaplan.

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Oldaker, G., Liu, L. & Lin, Y. Influences of Appalachian orography on heavy rainfall and rainfall variability associated with the passage of hurricane Isabel by ensemble simulations. Meteorol Atmos Phys 131, 329–350 (2019).

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