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Spatiotemporal Variability of ENSO and SST Teleconnections to Summer Drought over the United States during the Twentieth Century

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  • 1 Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, Palisades, New York
  • | 2 Utah Water Research Laboratory, Utah State University, Logan, Utah
  • | 3 New Jersey Institute of Technology, Newark, New Jersey
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Abstract

Presented are investigations into the spatial structure of teleconnections between both the winter El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and global sea surface temperatures (SSTs), and a measure of continental U.S. summer drought during the twentieth century. Potential nonlinearities and nonstationarities in the relationships are noted. During the first three decades of this century, summer drought teleconnections in response to SST patterns linked to ENSO are found to be strongest in the southern regions of Texas, with extensions into regions of the Midwest. From the 1930s through the 1950s, the drought teleconnection pattern is found to extend into southern Arizona. The most recent three decades show weak teleconnections between summer drought over southern Texas and Arizona, and winter SSTs, which is consistent with previous findings. Instead, the response to Pacific SSTs shows a clear shift to the western United States and southern regions of California. These epochal variations are consistent with epochal variations observed in ENSO and other low-frequency climate indicators. This changing teleconnection response complicates statistical forecasting of drought.

Corresponding author address: Balaji Rajagopalan, Dept. of Civil, Env. and Arch. Engineering, University of Colorado, ECOT-541, Campus Box 428, Boulder, CO 80309-0428.

Email: balajir@colorado.edu

Abstract

Presented are investigations into the spatial structure of teleconnections between both the winter El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and global sea surface temperatures (SSTs), and a measure of continental U.S. summer drought during the twentieth century. Potential nonlinearities and nonstationarities in the relationships are noted. During the first three decades of this century, summer drought teleconnections in response to SST patterns linked to ENSO are found to be strongest in the southern regions of Texas, with extensions into regions of the Midwest. From the 1930s through the 1950s, the drought teleconnection pattern is found to extend into southern Arizona. The most recent three decades show weak teleconnections between summer drought over southern Texas and Arizona, and winter SSTs, which is consistent with previous findings. Instead, the response to Pacific SSTs shows a clear shift to the western United States and southern regions of California. These epochal variations are consistent with epochal variations observed in ENSO and other low-frequency climate indicators. This changing teleconnection response complicates statistical forecasting of drought.

Corresponding author address: Balaji Rajagopalan, Dept. of Civil, Env. and Arch. Engineering, University of Colorado, ECOT-541, Campus Box 428, Boulder, CO 80309-0428.

Email: balajir@colorado.edu

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