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Data on influence of atmospheric rivers on vegetation productivity and fire patterns in the southwestern US


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Albano, C.M. , Dettinger, M.D., and Soulard, C.E., 2017, Data on influence of atmospheric rivers on vegetation productivity and fire patterns in the southwestern U.S. Geological Survey data release,


In the southwestern US, the meteorological phenomenon known as atmospheric rivers (ARs) has gained increasing attention due to its strong connections to floods, snowpacks and water supplies in the West Coast states. Relatively less is known about the ecological implications of ARs, particularly in the interior Southwest, where AR storms are less common. To address this gap, we compared a chronology of AR landfalls on the west coast between 1989-2011 and between 25-42.5ºN, to annual metrics of the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI; an indicator of vegetation productivity) and daily-resolution precipitation data to assess influences of AR-fed winter precipitation on vegetation productivity across the southwestern US. We mapped [...]


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Atmospheric rivers (ARs) are a major mechanism for water vapor transport from the tropics to mid-latitudes that strongly influence precipitation in western North America and elsewhere in the world. This study assesses historical relations between landfalling ARs and interannual variations in vegetation biomass production and associated fuels accumulation in the Southwest. The relations identified are stratified in terms of AR landfall latitude, the influence of topographic barriers, and across ecosystem types. As climatologists’ understanding of the synoptic patterns associated with the occurrence of ARs continues to evolve, an increased understanding of how AR landfalls, in aggregate, influence vegetation productivity and associated wildfire activity in dryland ecosystems may provide opportunities to better predict ecological responses to climate and climate change.



  • National and Regional Climate Adaptation Science Centers
  • Southwest CASC
  • USGS Data Release Products

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DOI doi:10.5066/F71Z42KJ

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