J27.3 Lessons in Communicating Rain Shadow Science in Western Nevada

Tuesday, 9 January 2018: 11:00 AM
Room 1 (ACC) (Austin, Texas)
Zoey Rosen, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO

The Sierra Nevada Mountains are a major influence on meteorological processes in western Nevada. The windward side of the mountains is located in northern California and experiences nearly an order of magnitude more precipitation than the leeside, which drains into western Nevada. This prominent rain shadow effect is a fundamental control of the climatology of western Nevada, however when the rain shadow weakens and allows precipitation to spill over into the leeside, severe flooding and travel impacts can occur. To develop a broader understanding of the factors that produce rain shadow effects, we analyzed four case studies from the winter of 2017. We used observations from radiosondes, satellites, wind profilers, and surface stations in conjunction with upper air maps to explore the relationship between barrier jets, atmospheric rivers (ARs), and spillover precipitation. It was found that the blocking effect of the Sierra Barrier Jet (SBJ) enhances the rain shadow effect with precipitation being concentrated on the windward side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Strong ARs in conjunction with a weak SBJ promoted spillover precipitation and contributed to flooding. As effective science communication is crucial for sharing research and to increase scientific literacy with the general public, we used different science communication and social media techniques to disseminate our meteorological analyses to a general audience. We found that leveraging social media influence by having well-followed organizations share our posts broadened our reach by orders of magnitude and that graphical communication through infographics and short video clips was a more effective means to engage the public than blog posts alone.
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