Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences

First Advisor

Wen-wen Tung

Committee Chair

Wen-wen Tung

Committee Member 1

Harshvardhan Harshvardhan

Committee Member 2

Jui-lin F. Li

Committee Member 3

Qianlai Zhuang


Atmospheric rivers (ARs) are narrow channels in the atmosphere that transport an enormous amount of moisture from the tropics to the higher latitudes. Streaks of highly reflective clouds are observed along with the ARs in satellite imagery. These clouds both influence the moisture transport of ARs, as well as modify the Earth-Atmospheric energy budget through pathways such as cloud-radiative forcing (CRF). This dissertation studies the CRF of the U.S. Landfalling ARs in weather and climate scales. Three crucial questions are addressed. First, how do clouds produced by the ARs modulate the moisture and heat balance of the Earth-Atmospheric system? Even though studies of ARs date back to the 90s, past research has been primarily focused on their hydrological impacts. We addressed this research gap by comparing the dominant types of precipitating clouds and convection of two ARs. Through quantifying their effects on the energy balance in the midlatitudes, we found that when deep convection was the dominant cloud types of an AR, impressive CRF cooling was produced. Second, what are the sufficient climate conditions for the extensive CRF in the continental U.S.? We studied 60 ARs that reached the California coast (the Southwest ARs) and 60 ARs that reached Pacific Northwest during Nov--Mar, 2000--2008. It was found that when these West-Coast ARs were followed by the moisture surge from the Gulf of Mexico (the Gulf-Coast AR), it resulted in apparent statewide CRF. Such condition happened more frequently in the Southwest-AR scenario. Third, how does the subgrid-scale-convection-induced CRF influence the moisture transport of ARs?We ran two WRF ARW simulations for a Southwest-AR that was followed by a Gulf-Coast AR. The only difference between the two simulations was one considered the CRF of subgrid-scale clouds while the other did not. By comparing the two simulations, we found that the subgrid-scale-convection-induced CRF helped prolong the lifespan of clouds in an AR, thus enabling moisture to be transported further downstream. In short, this work helps improve our understanding of CRF of the U.S. landfalling ARs from both weather and climate perspectives. Our results are useful for validating the representation of clouds and radiation processes in weather and climate models, thereby help to improve AR predictions.