Climatological analysis of tropical cyclone impacts on hydrological extremes in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States

Ning Sun, Mark S Wigmosta, David Judi, Zhaoqing Yang, Ziyu Xiao and Taiping Wang


Abstract: Research efforts related to landfalling tropical cyclones (TCs) and their hydrological impacts have focused mostly on the continental or regional scales, whereas many coastal management and infrastructure decisions are made at much finer spatial scales. In this context, this study aims to provide local-scale understandings of the climatological characteristics and hydrological impacts of TCs (from 1950 to 2019) over the Mid-Atlantic region defined as the Delaware River Basin (DRB) and Susquehanna River Basin (SRB). The climatological analysis is based on analyzing long-term, spatially distributed observational datasets of hurricane tracks, precipitation, and streamflows. Results suggest that, despite limited contribution of TCs to regional precipitation (<9%), TC is the dominant driver for extreme floods in the southern part of DRB (e.g. tributaries of the Christina River and lower Schuylkill River) and the southwestern portions of SRB (e.g. tributaries of the Lower Susquehanna and Junita River), where TC’s effect on drought alleviation is also comparatively higher. At the basin level, SRB is more susceptible to flooding associated with TCs and prone to drought relative to DRB; however, strong spatial variability of TC’s impact on hydrological extremes is observed within and across the basins. While the TC effect on flood/drought is negligible for the high-elevation, northern part of the region, TC increases the magnitude of the 100 year flood by up to 19.6% in DRB and 53.0% in SRB; the duration of short-term extreme hydrological drought is reduced by TC by up to 25.0% in SRB and 24.7% in DRB, respectively.

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