92nd American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting (January 22-26, 2012)

Thursday, 26 January 2012
Precipitation Characteristics Along a Semiarid Mountain Front in the North American Monsoon Region: Implications for Hydrologic Modeling and Ecosystem Distribution
Hall E (New Orleans Convention Center )
Enrique R. Vivoni, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ; and G. Mascaro, D. Gochis, A. Robles-Morua, L. A. Mendez-Barroso, C. J. Watts, J. C. Rodriguez, and L. El-Ashmawy

Precipitation processes along mountain fronts are poorly understood due to sparse data and the complex storm features at local scales. This is well exemplified in semiarid watersheds in the North American monsoon region where strong topographic gradients and convective storms lead to complex spatiotemporal patterns in precipitation. In this study, we present multi-year (2007-2011) observations from a rain gauge network deployed along a semiarid mountain front (~600 m to 1400 m) in northern Sonora, Mexico. Eleven tipping-bucket rain gauges were placed along an elevation gradient in the Sierra Los Locos basin and within different ecosystems organized from low to high altitude (desert scrub, subtropical scrub, oak savanna). Analysis of the rain gauge records considers the bi-modal precipitation regime: (1) the intense, summer monsoon season (JAS) with ~65% of the annual rainfall, and (2) a weaker winter season (DJF) with ~25% of the annual precipitation. We identify substantial variations in the precipitation characteristics (e.g., rainfall frequency, rainfall intensity, storm duration, seasonal amounts, diurnal cycle) with elevation and discuss how elevation-dependence differed for each season. We relate these findings to a conceptual framework developed at regional scales from the North American Monsoon Experiment (NAME) Event Rain gauge Network (NERN). We also classify sites according to ecosystem type to explore implications using a simple soil moisture model. Further, we test the impact of additional rainfall observations on the predictions of distributed hydrologic model applied to the semiarid watershed.

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