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Mechanisms Contributing to the Warming Hole and the Consequent U.S. East–West Differential of Heat Extremes

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  • 1 National Center for Atmospheric Research,* Boulder, Colorado
  • | 2 National Center for Atmospheric Research,* Boulder, Colorado, and CAWCR, Bureau of Meteorology, Melbourne, Australia
  • | 3 National Center for Atmospheric Research,* Boulder, Colorado
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Abstract

A linear trend calculated for observed annual mean surface air temperatures over the United States for the second-half of the twentieth century shows a slight cooling over the southeastern part of the country, the so-called warming hole, while temperatures over the rest of the country rose significantly. This east–west gradient of average temperature change has contributed to the observed pattern of changes of record temperatures as given by the ratio of daily record high temperatures to record low temperatures with a comparable east–west gradient. Ensemble averages of twentieth-century climate simulations in the Community Climate System Model, version 3 (CCSM3), show a slight west–east warming gradient but no warming hole. A warming hole appears in only several ensemble members in the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 3 (CMIP3) multimodel dataset and in one ensemble member of simulated twentieth-century climate in CCSM3. In this model the warming hole is produced mostly from internal decadal time-scale variability originating mainly from the equatorial central Pacific associated with the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO). Analyses of a long control run of the coupled model, and specified convective heating anomaly experiments in the atmosphere-only version of the model, trace the forcing of the warming hole to positive convective heating anomalies in the central equatorial Pacific Ocean near the date line. Cold-air advection into the southeastern United States in winter, and low-level moisture convergence in that region in summer, contribute most to the warming hole in those seasons. Projections show a disappearance of the warming hole, but ongoing greater surface temperature increases in the western United States compared to the eastern United States.

The National Center for Atmospheric Research is sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

Corresponding author address: Gerald Meehl, National Center for Atmospheric Research, P.O. Box 3000, Boulder, CO 80307. E-mail: meehl@ncar.ucar.edu

Abstract

A linear trend calculated for observed annual mean surface air temperatures over the United States for the second-half of the twentieth century shows a slight cooling over the southeastern part of the country, the so-called warming hole, while temperatures over the rest of the country rose significantly. This east–west gradient of average temperature change has contributed to the observed pattern of changes of record temperatures as given by the ratio of daily record high temperatures to record low temperatures with a comparable east–west gradient. Ensemble averages of twentieth-century climate simulations in the Community Climate System Model, version 3 (CCSM3), show a slight west–east warming gradient but no warming hole. A warming hole appears in only several ensemble members in the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 3 (CMIP3) multimodel dataset and in one ensemble member of simulated twentieth-century climate in CCSM3. In this model the warming hole is produced mostly from internal decadal time-scale variability originating mainly from the equatorial central Pacific associated with the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO). Analyses of a long control run of the coupled model, and specified convective heating anomaly experiments in the atmosphere-only version of the model, trace the forcing of the warming hole to positive convective heating anomalies in the central equatorial Pacific Ocean near the date line. Cold-air advection into the southeastern United States in winter, and low-level moisture convergence in that region in summer, contribute most to the warming hole in those seasons. Projections show a disappearance of the warming hole, but ongoing greater surface temperature increases in the western United States compared to the eastern United States.

The National Center for Atmospheric Research is sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

Corresponding author address: Gerald Meehl, National Center for Atmospheric Research, P.O. Box 3000, Boulder, CO 80307. E-mail: meehl@ncar.ucar.edu
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