Association of synoptic-scale atmospheric patterns with flash flooding in watersheds of the New York City water supply system

Natalie G. Teale, Steven M. Quiring, Trent W. Ford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Understanding flash floods in watersheds of the New York City water supply system (NYCWSS) is important, as turbidity associated with flooding degrades water quality in the unfiltered portions of this water supply system. We examined synoptic-scale atmospheric conditions most frequently associated with flash flooding in this region. Flash floods between 1987 and 2013 were identified in two small watersheds of the NYCWSS using USGS 15-min discharge data at the Esopus Creek near Allaben, NY and Neversink River at Claryville, NY gauges, both located in the Catskill Mountains. A total of 25 flash floods were detected in these watersheds and there were 17 separate flash flood days. The Spatial Synoptic Typer Tools 4.0 were used to characterize the synoptic-scale atmospheric patterns influencing the study area based on NCEP/NCAR 500-mb geopotential height reanalysis data. Through this procedure, 17 unique synoptic patterns were identified. Three of these types were found to be strongly associated with flash flooding events. Composites of these types show southwesterly flow which suggests advection of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean. The flash flood days were compared to the National Weather Service flash flood warnings. The flash flood warnings issued for Ulster County compared to the flash floods in the study watersheds highlight the highly localized nature of flash flooding in this region.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)358-370
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Climatology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017
Externally publishedYes



  • Catskill Mountains
  • New York City water supply system
  • extreme events
  • flash floods
  • synoptic typing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science

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