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Western U.S. Extreme Precipitation Events and Their Relation to ENSO and PDO in CCSM4

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  • 1 Division of Climate, Atmospheric Sciences, and Physical Oceanography, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California
  • | 2 Division of Climate, Atmospheric Sciences, and Physical Oceanography, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and Water Resources Discipline, U.S. Geological Survey, La Jolla, California
  • | 3 Division of Climate, Atmospheric Sciences, and Physical Oceanography, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California
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Abstract

Water resources and management over the western United States are heavily impacted by both local climate variability and the teleconnected responses of precipitation to the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO). In this work, regional precipitation patterns over the western United States and linkages to ENSO and the PDO are analyzed using output from a Community Climate System Model version 4 (CCSM4) preindustrial control run and observations, with emphasis on extreme precipitation events. CCSM4 produces realistic zonal gradients in precipitation intensity and duration over the western United States, with higher values on the windward side of the Cascade Mountains and Sierra Nevada and lower values on the leeward. Compared to its predecessor CCSM3, CCSM4 shows an improved teleconnected signal of both ENSO and the PDO to large-scale circulation patterns over the Pacific–North America region and also to the spatial pattern and other aspects of western U.S. precipitation. The so-called drizzle problem persists in CCSM4 but is significantly improved compared to CCSM3. In particular, it is found that CCSM4 has substantially less precipitation duration bias than is present in CCSM3. Both the overall and extreme intensity of wintertime precipitation over the western United States show statistically significant linkages with ENSO and PDO in CCSM4. This analysis provides a basis for future studies using greenhouse gas (GHG)-forced CCSM4 runs.

Corresponding author address: Michael J. DeFlorio, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, 9500 Gilman Dr., Mail Code 0208, La Jolla, CA 92093. E-mail: mdeflori@ucsd.edu

Abstract

Water resources and management over the western United States are heavily impacted by both local climate variability and the teleconnected responses of precipitation to the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO). In this work, regional precipitation patterns over the western United States and linkages to ENSO and the PDO are analyzed using output from a Community Climate System Model version 4 (CCSM4) preindustrial control run and observations, with emphasis on extreme precipitation events. CCSM4 produces realistic zonal gradients in precipitation intensity and duration over the western United States, with higher values on the windward side of the Cascade Mountains and Sierra Nevada and lower values on the leeward. Compared to its predecessor CCSM3, CCSM4 shows an improved teleconnected signal of both ENSO and the PDO to large-scale circulation patterns over the Pacific–North America region and also to the spatial pattern and other aspects of western U.S. precipitation. The so-called drizzle problem persists in CCSM4 but is significantly improved compared to CCSM3. In particular, it is found that CCSM4 has substantially less precipitation duration bias than is present in CCSM3. Both the overall and extreme intensity of wintertime precipitation over the western United States show statistically significant linkages with ENSO and PDO in CCSM4. This analysis provides a basis for future studies using greenhouse gas (GHG)-forced CCSM4 runs.

Corresponding author address: Michael J. DeFlorio, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, 9500 Gilman Dr., Mail Code 0208, La Jolla, CA 92093. E-mail: mdeflori@ucsd.edu
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