Eddy transport of atmospheric water vapor from the tropics is important for rainfall and related natural disasters in the middle latitudes. Atmospheric rivers (ARs), intense moisture plumes typically associated with extratropical cyclones, often produce heavy precipitation upon encountering topography on the west coasts of mid-latitude North America and Europe. ARs also occur over the northwestern Pacific and sometimes cause floods and landslides over East Asia, but the climatological relationship between ARs and heavy rainfall in this region remains unclear. Here, we evaluate the contribution of ARs to the hydrological cycle over East Asia using high-resolution daily rainfall observations and an atmospheric reanalysis during 1958–2007. Despite their low occurrence, ARs account for 14–44% of total rainfall and 20–90% of extreme heavy-rainfall events during spring, summer and autumn seasons. AR-related extreme rainfall is especially pronounced over western-to-southeastern slopes of terrains over the Korean Peninsula and Japan, owing to strong orographic effects and a stable direction of low-level moisture flows. A strong relationship between warm-season AR heavy rainfall and preceding-winter El Niño is identified since the 1970s, suggesting the potential of predicting heavy-rainfall risk over Korea and Japan at seasonal leads.
2017 by Meteorological Society of Japan