Integrated Hydrometeorological Predictions: A case study of the Colorado Front Range Flood of 2013

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During the second week of September 2013 an uncharacteristic weather pattern stalled over the Rocky Mountain Front Range region of northern Colorado bringing with it copious amounts of moisture from the Caribbean Sea and the tropical Eastern Pacific Ocean. This feed of moisture was funneled into the mountain front by a series of mesoscale circulation features resulting in several days of rainfall over steep mountainous terrain. Catastrophic flooding ensued within several Front Range river systems that washed away highways, destroyed towns, isolated communities, necessitated days of airborne evacuations and resulted in 10 fatalities. The impacts from heavy rainfall and flooding was felt over a broad region of northern Colorado leading to 18 counties being designated as federal disaster areas and caused an estimated cost in excess $3B in damages. In this talk the basic climatic, meteorological and hydrological conditions contributing to this event are described. Following a basic diagnostic description of the event, the performance of several quantitative precipitation estimate, quantitative precipitation forecast and hydrological forecast products available prior to and during the event are analyzed. A set of emerging research tools that have been used to perform post-event analyses and hindcasts are also presented with the intention of identifying where some of the biggest opportunities lie with respect to improving hydrometeorological predictions and where further improvements are needed.

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