Relationships between Hourly Rainfall Intensity and Atmospheric Variables over the Contiguous United States

Chiara Lepore, John Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Rainfall intensity displays relationships with atmospheric conditions such as surface temperature, and these relationships have implications for how the intensity of rainfall varies with climate. Here, hourly gauge measurements of rainfall over the contiguous United States (CONUS) are related to atmospheric variables taken from the North American Regional Reanalysis for the period 1979-2012. This analysis extends previous work relating the rainfall process to the environment by including a wider range of variables in univariate and bivariate quantile regressions. Known covariate relationships are used to quantify the regional contributions of different weather regimes to rainfall occurrence and to identify preferential atmospheric states for rainfall occurrence. The efficiency of different sets of regressors is evaluated, and the results show that both moisture availability and vertical instability should be taken into account, with CAPE in combination with specific humidity or dewpoint temperature being the most powerful regressors. Different regions and seasons behave differently, pointing to the challenges of constructing global or CONUS-wide models for representing the rainfall process. In particular, the relationships between environment and rainfall in the west of the United States are different from other regions, reflecting nonlocal rainfall processes. Most of the coastal and eastern United States display relatively low regional variability in the relationships between rainfall and environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3181-3197
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2016


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