Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2014IL282B

Hydro-meteorological response to tropical system precipitation in Illinois

Institute: Illinois
Year Established: 2014 Start Date: 2014-05-01 End Date: 2014-12-31
Total Federal Funds: $8,331 Total Non-Federal Funds: $16,663

Principal Investigators: David Changnon

Abstract: Heavy summer rainfall events in the Midwest are typically associated with mesoscale convective systems (MCS, Parker and Johnson 2000; e.g., Maddox et al. 1979; Fritsch et al. 1986; Junker et al. 1999; Anderson and Arrit 2001; Ashley et al. 2003; Tuttle and Davis 2006; Schumacher and Johnson 2005; Schumacher 2009). Various sub-types of MCS have been intensely studied, and their contribution to Midwest warm-season rainfall is well established (Maddox 1980; Rodgers et al. 1985; Fritsch et al. 1986; Parker and Johnson 2000; Ashley et al. 2003; Houze 2004; Ashley and Ashley 2008; Gallus et al. 2008; Kunkel et al. 2012). These types of systems can produce disastrous hydro-meteorological effects in Illinois that can lead to millions of dollars in damage (Angel et al. 1997) and even loss of life (Angel et al. 1997; Ashley and Ashley 2008). Although meteorological conditions dictate when, where and how long these systems will impact an area (Doswell et al. 1996), their impacts, either positive or negative, are largely determined by antecedent conditions (Changnon et al. 2003). For example, heavy MCS rainfall on areas experiencing drought could produce beneficial effects for crops, but the same rainfall on saturated soils and swollen streams could result in flooding (Changnon et al. 2003). One may wonder: what other types of convective events could produce similar hydro-meteorological impacts in Illinois? Tropical systems have received little recognition as heavy rain producers in the Midwest, and studies have typically viewed these systems as interesting and rare case-studies (Changnon and Changnon 2004; Changnon and Changnon 2006; Gensini et al. 2011). However, Illinois has experienced heavy tropical system rainfall (≥ 2.54 cm day-1) once every 3.8 years from 1913-2012, and the period from 2005 to 2012 produced 7 such events (Haberlie et al. 2014). One such event, associated with the remnants of Hurricane Ike in 2008, produced once in 100 year rainfall and peak streamflow values in northern Illinois (Gensini et al. 2011). Furthermore, these events typically occur during neutral to wet conditions in Illinois. Tropical system events that occur under conditions where soils are wet and rivers are at or above average stream flow could further accentuate negative hydro-meteorological impacts in Illinois (Changnon et al. 2003). Moreover, recent studies have suggested that tropical systems in the Atlantic basin could become stronger and more numerous as anthropogenic warming continues (Emanuel 2005; Elsner et al. 2008; Bender et al. 2010), and some of those systems may increasingly impact the Midwest (Kunkel et al. 2012; Haberlie et al. 2014). Thus, there is reasonable motivation to understand the impacts of these events in Illinois, especially if their frequency increases. Building on the work of Haberlie et al. (2014), this study will quantify the amount and impact of tropical system related precipitation in Illinois, with a focus on drought, stream flow response, and latent effects on the following warm-season.