Identification of large-scale meteorological patterns associated with extreme precipitation in the US northeast

Laurie Agel, Mathew Barlow, Steven B. Feldstein, William J. Gutowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Patterns of daily large-scale circulation associated with Northeast US extreme precipitation are identified using both k-means clustering (KMC) and Self-Organizing Maps (SOM) applied to tropopause height. The tropopause height provides a compact representation of the upper-tropospheric potential vorticity, which is closely related to the overall evolution and intensity of weather systems. Extreme precipitation is defined as the top 1% of daily wet-day observations at 35 Northeast stations, 1979–2008. KMC is applied on extreme precipitation days only, while the SOM algorithm is applied to all days in order to place the extreme results into the overall context of patterns for all days. Six tropopause patterns are identified through KMC for extreme day precipitation: a summertime tropopause ridge, a summertime shallow trough/ridge, a summertime shallow eastern US trough, a deeper wintertime eastern US trough, and two versions of a deep cold-weather trough located across the east-central US. Thirty SOM patterns for all days are identified. Results for all days show that 6 SOM patterns account for almost half of the extreme days, although extreme precipitation occurs in all SOM patterns. The same SOM patterns associated with extreme precipitation also routinely produce non-extreme precipitation; however, on extreme precipitation days the troughs, on average, are deeper and the downstream ridges more pronounced. Analysis of other fields associated with the large-scale patterns show various degrees of anomalously strong moisture transport preceding, and upward motion during, extreme precipitation events.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1819-1839
Number of pages21
JournalClimate Dynamics
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - Mar 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Identification of large-scale meteorological patterns associated with extreme precipitation in the US northeast'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this