Date of Award




Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences

Content Description

1 online resource (vii, 56 pages) : color illustrations and color maps.

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Junhong Wang

Committee Members

Justin Minder


2013 Colorado Flood, heavy precipitation, Preciptable water, Water vapor, Atmospheric, Floods, Precipitation anomalies

Subject Categories

Atmospheric Sciences


During September 9-16, 2013, the Front Range region of Colorado experienced heavy rainfall which resulted in severe flooding. Precipitation totals during the event exceeded 450mm in Boulder, Colorado, 9 lives were lost, and damages to public and private properties were estimated to be over $2 billion. This study analyzes the characteristics of water vapor surrounding the event, including the abnormality of total column water vapor, the sources of moisture, and the relationship between water vapor and precipitation characteristics. It was found that the atmosphere was very near saturation during the duration of the event and monthly-averaged precipitable water (PW) was 30% higher than climatology for September of 2013. The frequency distribution for the first half of September of 2013 was reverse-lognormal, which confirmed that the atmosphere was near saturation during the event. Moisture fluxed into the Front Range region from both the eastern Tropical Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico and the intensity of the flux was controlled by the strength of a cutoff low over the southwestern United States and a subtropical anticyclone over the southeastern United States. Precipitation began when PW rose between 2 and 3 standard deviations above the long-term mean. However, PW did not appear to contribute to precipitation intensity throughout the event.