Long-term variability in atmospheric moisture transport and relationship with heavy precipitation in the eastern USA

Natalie Teale, David A. Robinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study investigates variability in moisture transport patterns within the eastern USA and adjacent Atlantic Ocean during the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries and relates these patterns to heavy precipitation. Daily integrated water vapor transport (IVT) from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts ERA-20C reanalysis for the eastern USA (30°–50°N × 60°–90°W) from 1900 to 2010 is classified into previously defined moisture transport patterns. Over the 111-year study period, annual counts of the high-IVT patterns increase at the expense of low-IVT pattern counts, with the rates of these changes varying by pattern and by season. Additionally, the frequency of intense IVT patterns persisting for consecutive days increases and weak IVT patterns are interrupted more frequently. Moisture transport in each of the patterns increases over the study period, particularly in the highest percentiles of IVT, indicating an intensification of IVT in the eastern USA. This intensification is expressed in the moisture transport patterns with spatial and seasonal variability. When heavy precipitation days from 1900 to 2010 from eleven stations are related to the water vapor transport patterns, several patterns emerge as major contributors to the regional heavy precipitation regimes within the study area. Over the study period, the occurrence of heavy precipitation increases with meridional, high-IVT patterns and decreases with frequent, zonal patterns. This indicates an increasing influence of synoptic-scale meridional moisture transport on heavy precipitation across the eastern USA. This study demonstrates the utility of a moisture transport approach to contextualize regional precipitation shifts within the changing global hydroclimatic system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1
JournalClimatic Change
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Nov 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Atmospheric Science


  • Climate variability
  • Eastern USA
  • Heavy precipitation
  • Hydroclimatology
  • Precipitation
  • Water vapor transport


Dive into the research topics of 'Long-term variability in atmospheric moisture transport and relationship with heavy precipitation in the eastern USA'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this