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Interannual Rainfall Variations in the North American Summer Monsoon Region: 1900–98

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  • 1 Climate and Bio-Atmospheric Sciences Group, School of Natural Resource Sciences, University of Nebraska at Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska
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Abstract

The following questions are addressed in this study using an array of data and statistical methods: 1) does the North American monsoon region have a single dominant monsoon system; 2) if it has more than one, what are they; and 3) what are major causes of interannual monsoon rainfall variations in these systems? Results showed two dominant summer monsoon systems in the region: one in south-central Mexico, south of the 26°N, and the other in the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. Monsoon rainfall variations in these regions are usually opposite to each other and have different causes. The interannual variations in monsoon rainfall in south-central Mexico were highly affected by interannual variations in the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) in the eastern tropical Pacific. A northern (southern) position of the ITCZ, often related to cooler (warmer) than normal sea surface temperatures in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, corresponded to strong (weak) monsoon.

The “land memory effect” was evident in interannual variations of monsoon rainfall in the southwestern United States, shown by strong correlations of the summer rainfall variation versus antecedent winter precipitation anomalies in the western United States. However, the effect was not robust but varied fairly regularly. It was strong from approximately 1920 to 1930 and disappeared from 1931 to 1960. It regained its strength from 1961 to 1990 but has weakened again since 1990. The forcing of this variation was identified as a multidecadal variation in atmosphere circulations in the North Pacific–North American sector and the land memory effect was part of this variation. This multidecadal variation has to be included in prediction methods in order for them to correctly describe seasonal and interannual variations in summer rainfall in the North American monsoon region.

*Agricultural Research Division, University of Nebraska at Lincoln Contribution Number 13501.

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

Abstract

The following questions are addressed in this study using an array of data and statistical methods: 1) does the North American monsoon region have a single dominant monsoon system; 2) if it has more than one, what are they; and 3) what are major causes of interannual monsoon rainfall variations in these systems? Results showed two dominant summer monsoon systems in the region: one in south-central Mexico, south of the 26°N, and the other in the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. Monsoon rainfall variations in these regions are usually opposite to each other and have different causes. The interannual variations in monsoon rainfall in south-central Mexico were highly affected by interannual variations in the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) in the eastern tropical Pacific. A northern (southern) position of the ITCZ, often related to cooler (warmer) than normal sea surface temperatures in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, corresponded to strong (weak) monsoon.

The “land memory effect” was evident in interannual variations of monsoon rainfall in the southwestern United States, shown by strong correlations of the summer rainfall variation versus antecedent winter precipitation anomalies in the western United States. However, the effect was not robust but varied fairly regularly. It was strong from approximately 1920 to 1930 and disappeared from 1931 to 1960. It regained its strength from 1961 to 1990 but has weakened again since 1990. The forcing of this variation was identified as a multidecadal variation in atmosphere circulations in the North Pacific–North American sector and the land memory effect was part of this variation. This multidecadal variation has to be included in prediction methods in order for them to correctly describe seasonal and interannual variations in summer rainfall in the North American monsoon region.

*Agricultural Research Division, University of Nebraska at Lincoln Contribution Number 13501.

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

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