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The Forcing of Southwestern Asia Teleconnections by Low-Frequency Sea Surface Temperature Variability during Boreal Winter

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  • 1 Department of Geography, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, California
  • | 2 U.S. Geological Survey, and Department of Geography, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, California
  • | 3 Department of Environmental, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Massachusetts, Lowell, Massachusetts
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Abstract

Southwestern Asia, defined here as the domain bounded by 20°–40°N and 40°–70°E, which includes the nations of Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, is a water-stressed and semiarid region that receives roughly 75% of its annual rainfall during November–April. The November–April climate of southwestern Asia is strongly influenced by tropical Indo-Pacific variability on intraseasonal and interannual time scales, much of which can be attributed to sea surface temperature (SST) variations. The influences of lower-frequency SST variability on southwestern Asia climate during November–April Pacific decadal SST (PDSST) variability and the long-term trend in SST (LTSST) is examined. The U.S. Climate Variability and Predictability Program (CLIVAR) Drought Working Group forced global atmospheric climate models with PDSST and LTSST patterns, identified using empirical orthogonal functions, to show the steady atmospheric response to these modes of decadal to multidecadal SST variability. During November–April, LTSST forces an anticyclone over southwestern Asia, which results in reduced precipitation and increases in surface temperature. The precipitation and tropospheric circulation influences of LTSST are corroborated by independent observed precipitation and circulation datasets during 1901–2004. The decadal variations of southwestern Asia precipitation may be forced by PDSST variability, with two of the three models indicating that the cold phase of PDSST forces an anticyclone and precipitation reductions. However, there are intermodel circulation variations to PDSST that influence subregional precipitation patterns over the Middle East, southwestern Asia, and subtropical Asia. Changes in wintertime temperature and precipitation over southwestern Asia forced by LTSST and PDSST imply important changes to the land surface hydrology during the spring and summer.

Corresponding author address: Andrew Hoell, Department of Geography, University of California, Santa Barbara, 4717 Ellison Hall, Santa Barbara, CA 93106. E-mail: hoell@geog.ucsb.edu

Abstract

Southwestern Asia, defined here as the domain bounded by 20°–40°N and 40°–70°E, which includes the nations of Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, is a water-stressed and semiarid region that receives roughly 75% of its annual rainfall during November–April. The November–April climate of southwestern Asia is strongly influenced by tropical Indo-Pacific variability on intraseasonal and interannual time scales, much of which can be attributed to sea surface temperature (SST) variations. The influences of lower-frequency SST variability on southwestern Asia climate during November–April Pacific decadal SST (PDSST) variability and the long-term trend in SST (LTSST) is examined. The U.S. Climate Variability and Predictability Program (CLIVAR) Drought Working Group forced global atmospheric climate models with PDSST and LTSST patterns, identified using empirical orthogonal functions, to show the steady atmospheric response to these modes of decadal to multidecadal SST variability. During November–April, LTSST forces an anticyclone over southwestern Asia, which results in reduced precipitation and increases in surface temperature. The precipitation and tropospheric circulation influences of LTSST are corroborated by independent observed precipitation and circulation datasets during 1901–2004. The decadal variations of southwestern Asia precipitation may be forced by PDSST variability, with two of the three models indicating that the cold phase of PDSST forces an anticyclone and precipitation reductions. However, there are intermodel circulation variations to PDSST that influence subregional precipitation patterns over the Middle East, southwestern Asia, and subtropical Asia. Changes in wintertime temperature and precipitation over southwestern Asia forced by LTSST and PDSST imply important changes to the land surface hydrology during the spring and summer.

Corresponding author address: Andrew Hoell, Department of Geography, University of California, Santa Barbara, 4717 Ellison Hall, Santa Barbara, CA 93106. E-mail: hoell@geog.ucsb.edu
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