An expanded investigation of atmospheric rivers in the southern Appalachian Mountains and their connection to landslides
Previous examination of rain gauge observations over a five-year period at high elevations within a river basin of the southern Appalachian Mountains showed that half of the extreme (upper 2.5%) rainfall events were associated with an atmospheric river (AR). Of these extreme events having an AR association, over 73% were linked to a societal hazard at downstream locations in eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina. Our analysis in this study was expanded to investigate AR effects in the southern Appalachian Mountains on two river basins, located 60 km apart, and examine their influence on extreme rainfall, periods of elevated precipitation and landslide events over two time periods, the ‘recent’ and ‘distant’ past. Results showed that slightly more than half of the extreme rainfall events were directly attributable to an AR in both river basins. However, there was disagreement on individual ARs influencing extreme rainfall events in each basin, seemingly a reflection of its proximity to the Blue Ridge Escarpment and the localized terrain lining the river basin boundary. Days having at least one landslide occurring in western North Carolina were found to be correlated with long periods of elevated precipitation, which often also corresponded to the influence of ARs and extreme rainfall events.