Warm Season Extreme Flood Events in the Midwestern US—Sources of Moisture and Physical Mechanisms

Seung Uk Kim, Francina Dominguez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A comprehensive picture of the development of warm season extreme floods in the Midwestern US is presented. We first identify the climatological moisture sources for precipitation in the Midwest using the two-layer dynamic recycling model (2L-DRM) with ECMWF Reanalysis v5 (ERA5) data. Terrestrial sources supply most of the moisture for Midwestern US precipitation during the warm season, while oceanic sources dominate during the cold season. The Empirical Orthogonal Function (EOF) analysis is used to select extreme flood events characterized by both positive soil moisture and precipitation anomalies. During the warm season flood events, moisture coming from oceanic sources increases by more than 45% compared to the climatology. In addition, our results show that moisture can come from remote regions due to sustained anomalous circulation. Low-level circulation anomalies associated with wave trains that traverse the continent enhance moisture contributions from terrestrial sources along narrow paths. However, moisture budget analysis reveals that the primary flood-producing mechanism is the convergence of moisture due to intense circulation anomalies. Moisture advection and thermodynamic terms are responsible for flood termination. Our results suggest that knowledge of antecedent wet soil moisture conditions is unlikely to improve the predictability of flood-producing storms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2022JD038208
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jul 27 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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