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ENSO Influence on Intraseasonal Extreme Rainfall and Temperature Frequencies in the Contiguous United States: Observations and Model Results

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  • 1 Climate Research Division, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California
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Abstract

The signature of ENSO in the wintertime frequencies of heavy precipitation and temperature extremes is derived from both observations and atmospheric general circulation model output for the contiguous United States. ENSO signals in the frequency of occurrence of heavy rainfall are found in the Southeast, Gulf Coast, central Rockies, and the general area of the Mississippi–Ohio River valleys. Strong, nonlinear signals in extreme warm temperature frequencies are found in the southern and eastern United States. Extreme cold temperature frequencies are found to be less sensitive to ENSO forcing than extreme warm temperature frequencies. Observed ENSO signals in extreme temperature frequencies are not simply manifestations of shifts in mean seasonal temperature. These signals in the wintertime frequency of extreme rainfall and temperature events appear strong enough to be useful in long-range regional statistical prediction.

Comparisons of observational and model results show that the model climate is sensitive to ENSO on continental scales and provide some encouragement to modeling studies of intraseasonal sensitivity to low-frequency climatic forcing. However, large regional disagreements exist in all variables. Continental-scale El Niño signatures in intraseasonal temperature variability are not correctly modeled. Modeled signals in extreme temperature event frequencies are much more directly related to shifts in seasonal mean temperature than they are in nature.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Alexander Gershunov, Climate Research Division, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Dr., La Jolla, CA 92093-0224.

Abstract

The signature of ENSO in the wintertime frequencies of heavy precipitation and temperature extremes is derived from both observations and atmospheric general circulation model output for the contiguous United States. ENSO signals in the frequency of occurrence of heavy rainfall are found in the Southeast, Gulf Coast, central Rockies, and the general area of the Mississippi–Ohio River valleys. Strong, nonlinear signals in extreme warm temperature frequencies are found in the southern and eastern United States. Extreme cold temperature frequencies are found to be less sensitive to ENSO forcing than extreme warm temperature frequencies. Observed ENSO signals in extreme temperature frequencies are not simply manifestations of shifts in mean seasonal temperature. These signals in the wintertime frequency of extreme rainfall and temperature events appear strong enough to be useful in long-range regional statistical prediction.

Comparisons of observational and model results show that the model climate is sensitive to ENSO on continental scales and provide some encouragement to modeling studies of intraseasonal sensitivity to low-frequency climatic forcing. However, large regional disagreements exist in all variables. Continental-scale El Niño signatures in intraseasonal temperature variability are not correctly modeled. Modeled signals in extreme temperature event frequencies are much more directly related to shifts in seasonal mean temperature than they are in nature.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Alexander Gershunov, Climate Research Division, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Dr., La Jolla, CA 92093-0224.

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