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Regional Changes in the Interannual Variability of U.S. Warm Season Precipitation

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  • 1 NOAA/Climate Prediction Center, College Park, Maryland, and Environmental Defense Fund, Washington, D.C.
  • 2 NOAA/Climate Prediction Center, College Park, Maryland
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Abstract

Intensification of regional springtime precipitation variability over the United States and the role of North American low-level jets (NALLJs) are investigated for the 1950–2010 period. The analysis reveals that the primary modes of NALLJ fluctuations are related to the strengthening of AMJ precipitation variability over the northern Great Plains and southeastern United States during the last 60 years. Examination of the epochal change in NALLJ variations shows a stronger connectivity to SST variability during 1980–2010 than in the 1950–79 period. In the context of the first three NALLJ variability modes it appears that the role of decadal SST variations (NALLJ mode 1) and the recent emergence of tropical Pacific connectivity (NALLJ modes 1 and 2) via SST-induced atmospheric heating and large-scale circulation changes may act to strengthen and spatially shift the NALLJ variability modes southward and/or eastward, intensifying regional precipitation variability in the recent epoch. Although notable NALLJ variability also exists in the earlier epoch, the upper-level height field is significantly lacking in meridional gradients, leading to weak upper-level zonal wind anomalies over the United States and diminished NALLJ variability. Conversely, the intensified and spatially shifted upper-level height anomaly in the recent epoch produces enhanced meridional height gradients in all three modes, strengthening NALLJ variability—highlighting that seemingly subtle shifts in hemispheric-scale atmospheric circulation changes can have important impacts on regional climate variability and change.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Scott J. Weaver, Environmental Defense Fund, 1875 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20009. E-mail: sweaver@edf.org

Abstract

Intensification of regional springtime precipitation variability over the United States and the role of North American low-level jets (NALLJs) are investigated for the 1950–2010 period. The analysis reveals that the primary modes of NALLJ fluctuations are related to the strengthening of AMJ precipitation variability over the northern Great Plains and southeastern United States during the last 60 years. Examination of the epochal change in NALLJ variations shows a stronger connectivity to SST variability during 1980–2010 than in the 1950–79 period. In the context of the first three NALLJ variability modes it appears that the role of decadal SST variations (NALLJ mode 1) and the recent emergence of tropical Pacific connectivity (NALLJ modes 1 and 2) via SST-induced atmospheric heating and large-scale circulation changes may act to strengthen and spatially shift the NALLJ variability modes southward and/or eastward, intensifying regional precipitation variability in the recent epoch. Although notable NALLJ variability also exists in the earlier epoch, the upper-level height field is significantly lacking in meridional gradients, leading to weak upper-level zonal wind anomalies over the United States and diminished NALLJ variability. Conversely, the intensified and spatially shifted upper-level height anomaly in the recent epoch produces enhanced meridional height gradients in all three modes, strengthening NALLJ variability—highlighting that seemingly subtle shifts in hemispheric-scale atmospheric circulation changes can have important impacts on regional climate variability and change.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Scott J. Weaver, Environmental Defense Fund, 1875 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20009. E-mail: sweaver@edf.org
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