Ocean fronts and eddies force atmospheric rivers and heavy precipitation in western North America. Academic Article uri icon


  • Atmospheric rivers (ARs) are responsible for over 90% of poleward water vapor transport in the mid-latitudes and can produce extreme precipitation when making landfall. However, weather and climate models still have difficulty simulating and predicting landfalling ARs and associated extreme precipitation, highlighting the need to better understand AR dynamics. Here, using high-resolution climate models and observations, we demonstrate that mesoscale sea-surface temperature (SST) anomalies along the Kuroshio Extension can exert a remote influence on landfalling ARs and related heavy precipitation along the west coast of North America. Inclusion of mesoscale SST forcing in the simulations results in approximately a 40% increase in landfalling ARs and up to a 30% increase in heavy precipitation in mountainous regions and this remote impact occurs on two-week time scales. The asymmetrical response of the atmosphere to warm vs. cold mesoscale SSTs over the eddy-rich Kuroshio Extension region is proposed as a forcing mechanism that results in a net increase of moisture flux above the planetary boundary layer, prompting AR genesis via enhancing moisture transport into extratropical cyclones in the presence of mesoscale SST forcing.

published proceedings

  • Nat Commun

altmetric score

  • 6.25

author list (cited authors)

  • Liu, X., Ma, X., Chang, P., Jia, Y., Fu, D., Xu, G., ... Patricola, C. M.

citation count

  • 15

complete list of authors

  • Liu, Xue||Ma, Xiaohui||Chang, Ping||Jia, Yinglai||Fu, Dan||Xu, Guangzhi||Wu, Lixin||Saravanan, R||Patricola, Christina M

publication date

  • January 2021