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Variations of Teleconnection of ENSO and Interannual Variation in Summer Rainfall in the Central United States

Qi HuClimate and Bio-Atmospheric Sciences Group, School of Natural Resource Sciences, University of Nebraska—Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska

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Song FengClimate and Bio-Atmospheric Sciences Group, School of Natural Resource Sciences, University of Nebraska—Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska

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Abstract

Summer rainfall in the central United States has singular interannual variations of a 3–6-yr period. Identifying the causes of these variations assures improvement in predictions of summer rainfall in the region.

A review of previous studies revealed a puzzling situation: the outstanding interannual variations of the summer rainfall in the central United States showed no persistent correlations with known influential interannual variations in the Northern Hemisphere and the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO). This study was undertaken to identify the cause of this situation and ultimately explain the causes of the observed interannual summer rainfall variations. Its results showed a teleconnection of the ENSO with the summer rainfall in the central United States. The intensity of which has varied over the last 125 years. The teleconnection was active in two epochs, 1871–1916 and 1948–78, and absent in the two epochs 1917–47 and 1979–present. This variation was associated with a multidecadal variation in both sea surface temperature and sea level pressure in the mid- and high-latitude North Pacific. In the epochs of active teleconnection, the circulation in the warm phase of ENSO favored a deformation field in the lower troposphere in the central United States causing wet summers and a reversed circulation in cold phase of ENSO yielding dry summers, a process that partially explains the interannual summer rainfall variations.

The result also showed that the variations of the teleconnection were “in phase” with the variation in the average surface temperature of the Northern Hemisphere. When the “abrupt warming” of the surface temperature developed in 1917–47 and the most recent two decades, the teleconnection broke down. Because of the limitation in data record length, this observed relationship and the persistence of the variation in the teleconnection need further investigations when additional data are available.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Qi Hu, School of Natural Resource Sciences, 237 L.W. Chase Hall, University of Nebraska—Lincoln, Lincoln, NE 68583-0728. Email: qhu2@unl.edu

Abstract

Summer rainfall in the central United States has singular interannual variations of a 3–6-yr period. Identifying the causes of these variations assures improvement in predictions of summer rainfall in the region.

A review of previous studies revealed a puzzling situation: the outstanding interannual variations of the summer rainfall in the central United States showed no persistent correlations with known influential interannual variations in the Northern Hemisphere and the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO). This study was undertaken to identify the cause of this situation and ultimately explain the causes of the observed interannual summer rainfall variations. Its results showed a teleconnection of the ENSO with the summer rainfall in the central United States. The intensity of which has varied over the last 125 years. The teleconnection was active in two epochs, 1871–1916 and 1948–78, and absent in the two epochs 1917–47 and 1979–present. This variation was associated with a multidecadal variation in both sea surface temperature and sea level pressure in the mid- and high-latitude North Pacific. In the epochs of active teleconnection, the circulation in the warm phase of ENSO favored a deformation field in the lower troposphere in the central United States causing wet summers and a reversed circulation in cold phase of ENSO yielding dry summers, a process that partially explains the interannual summer rainfall variations.

The result also showed that the variations of the teleconnection were “in phase” with the variation in the average surface temperature of the Northern Hemisphere. When the “abrupt warming” of the surface temperature developed in 1917–47 and the most recent two decades, the teleconnection broke down. Because of the limitation in data record length, this observed relationship and the persistence of the variation in the teleconnection need further investigations when additional data are available.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Qi Hu, School of Natural Resource Sciences, 237 L.W. Chase Hall, University of Nebraska—Lincoln, Lincoln, NE 68583-0728. Email: qhu2@unl.edu

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