Canadian Precipitation Patterns Associated with the Southern Oscillation

Amir Shabbar Atmospheric Environment Service, Environment Canada, Downsview, Ontario, Canada

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Barrie Bonsal Atmospheric Environment Service, Environment Canada, Downsview, Ontario, Canada

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Madhav Khandekar Atmospheric Environment Service, Environment Canada, Downsview, Ontario, Canada

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Abstract

Precipitation responses over Canada associated with the two extreme phases of the Southern Oscillation (SO), namely El Niño and La Niña, are identified. Using the best available precipitation data from 1911 to 1994, both the spatial and temporal behavior of the responses are analyzed from the El Niño/La Niña onset to several seasons afterward. Composite and correlation analyses indicate that precipitation over a large region of southern Canada extending from British Columbia, through the prairies, and into the Great Lakes region is significantly influenced by the SO phenomenon. The results show a distinct pattern of negative (positive) precipitation anomalies in this region during the first winter following the onset of El Niño (La Niña) events. During this same period, significant positive precipitation anomalies occur over the northern prairies and southeastern Northwest Territories in association with El Niño events. Statistical significance of the responses is tested by the Student’s t-test and the Wilcoxon rank-sum test, while field significance is established through the Monte Carlo procedure. All of the significant precipitation anomalies can be explained by the associated upper-atmospheric flow patterns, which during the first winter following the onset of El Niño (La Niña) events resemble the positive (negative) phase of the Pacific–North American (PNA) pattern. Significant correlations between Southern Oscillation index (SOI) values and the observed precipitation anomalies over southern Canada suggest the possibility of developing a long-range forecasting technique for Canadian precipitation based on the occurrence and evolution of the various phases of the SO.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Barrie Bonsal, Atmospheric Environment Services (CCRM), 4905 Dufferin Street, Downsview, ON M3H 5T4, Canada. E-mail: barrie.bonsal@ec.gc.ca

Abstract

Precipitation responses over Canada associated with the two extreme phases of the Southern Oscillation (SO), namely El Niño and La Niña, are identified. Using the best available precipitation data from 1911 to 1994, both the spatial and temporal behavior of the responses are analyzed from the El Niño/La Niña onset to several seasons afterward. Composite and correlation analyses indicate that precipitation over a large region of southern Canada extending from British Columbia, through the prairies, and into the Great Lakes region is significantly influenced by the SO phenomenon. The results show a distinct pattern of negative (positive) precipitation anomalies in this region during the first winter following the onset of El Niño (La Niña) events. During this same period, significant positive precipitation anomalies occur over the northern prairies and southeastern Northwest Territories in association with El Niño events. Statistical significance of the responses is tested by the Student’s t-test and the Wilcoxon rank-sum test, while field significance is established through the Monte Carlo procedure. All of the significant precipitation anomalies can be explained by the associated upper-atmospheric flow patterns, which during the first winter following the onset of El Niño (La Niña) events resemble the positive (negative) phase of the Pacific–North American (PNA) pattern. Significant correlations between Southern Oscillation index (SOI) values and the observed precipitation anomalies over southern Canada suggest the possibility of developing a long-range forecasting technique for Canadian precipitation based on the occurrence and evolution of the various phases of the SO.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Barrie Bonsal, Atmospheric Environment Services (CCRM), 4905 Dufferin Street, Downsview, ON M3H 5T4, Canada. E-mail: barrie.bonsal@ec.gc.ca

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