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Mechanisms Controlling Precipitation in the Northern Portion of the North American Monsoon

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  • 1 University of Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa, and University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
  • | 2 University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
  • | 3 Met Office, Exeter, United Kingdom
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Abstract

Key mechanisms important for the simulation and better understanding of the precipitation of the North American monsoon (NAM) were analyzed in this paper. Three experiments with the Providing Regional Climates for Impacts Studies (PRECIS) regional climate model, the Hadley Centre Regional Model version 3P (HadRM3P), driven by different boundary conditions were carried out. After a detailed analysis of the moisture and low-level winds derived from the models, the authors conclude that the Gulf of Mexico (GoM) moisture and the Great Plains low-level jet (GPLLJ) play an important role in the northern portion of the NAM. Moreover, the realistic simulation of these features is necessary for a better simulation of precipitation in the NAM. Previous works suggest that the influence of moisture from the GoM in Arizona–New Mexico (AZNM) takes place primarily via the middle- and upper-tropospheric flow (above 700 mb). However, it is shown here that if the GoM does not supply enough moisture and the GPLLJ at lower levels (below 700 mb) does not reach the AZNM region, then a dry westerly flow dominates that area and the summer precipitation is below normal. The implications of these findings for studies of climate change are demonstrated with the analysis of two general circulation models (GCMs) commonly used for climate change prediction, which are shown not to reproduce correctly the GPLLJ intensity nor the moisture in the GoM. This implies that the precipitation in AZNM would not be correctly represented by a regional model driven by these GCMs.

Corresponding author address: Ruth Cerezo-Mota, CSAG, Shell Environmental and Geographical Science Building, South Lane, Upper Campus, University of Cape Town, Private Bag X3, Rondebosch, Western Cape, 7701, South Africa. E-mail: rcerezo@csag.uct.ac.za

Abstract

Key mechanisms important for the simulation and better understanding of the precipitation of the North American monsoon (NAM) were analyzed in this paper. Three experiments with the Providing Regional Climates for Impacts Studies (PRECIS) regional climate model, the Hadley Centre Regional Model version 3P (HadRM3P), driven by different boundary conditions were carried out. After a detailed analysis of the moisture and low-level winds derived from the models, the authors conclude that the Gulf of Mexico (GoM) moisture and the Great Plains low-level jet (GPLLJ) play an important role in the northern portion of the NAM. Moreover, the realistic simulation of these features is necessary for a better simulation of precipitation in the NAM. Previous works suggest that the influence of moisture from the GoM in Arizona–New Mexico (AZNM) takes place primarily via the middle- and upper-tropospheric flow (above 700 mb). However, it is shown here that if the GoM does not supply enough moisture and the GPLLJ at lower levels (below 700 mb) does not reach the AZNM region, then a dry westerly flow dominates that area and the summer precipitation is below normal. The implications of these findings for studies of climate change are demonstrated with the analysis of two general circulation models (GCMs) commonly used for climate change prediction, which are shown not to reproduce correctly the GPLLJ intensity nor the moisture in the GoM. This implies that the precipitation in AZNM would not be correctly represented by a regional model driven by these GCMs.

Corresponding author address: Ruth Cerezo-Mota, CSAG, Shell Environmental and Geographical Science Building, South Lane, Upper Campus, University of Cape Town, Private Bag X3, Rondebosch, Western Cape, 7701, South Africa. E-mail: rcerezo@csag.uct.ac.za
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