The Relationship between Cool and Warm Season Moisture over the Central United States, 1685–2015

Max C. A. Torbenson Department of Geosciences, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas, and Departamento de Ciências Florestais, Universidade Federal de Lavras, Lavras, Brazil

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David W. Stahle Department of Geosciences, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas

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Abstract

Land surface feedbacks impart a significant degree of persistence between cool and warm season moisture availability in the central United States. However, the degree of correlation between these two variables is subject to major changes that appear to occur on decadal to multidecadal time scales, even in the relatively short 115-yr instrumental record. Tree-ring reconstructions have extended the limited observational record of long-term soil moisture levels, but such reconstructions do not resolve the seasonal differences in moisture conditions. We present two separate 331-yr-long seasonal moisture reconstructions for the central United States, based on sensitive subannual and annual tree-ring chronologies that have strong and separate seasonal moisture signals: an estimate of the long-term May soil moisture balance and a second estimate of the short-term June–August atmospheric moisture balance. The predictors used in each seasonal reconstruction are not significantly correlated with the alternate season target. Both reconstructions capture over 70% of the interannual variance in the instrumental data for the calibration period and also share significant decadal and multidecadal variability with the instrumental record in both the calibration and validation periods. The instrumental and reconstructed moisture levels are both positively correlated between spring and summer strongly enough to have potential value in seasonal prediction. However, the relationship between spring and summer moisture exhibits major decadal changes in strength and even sign that appear to be related to large-scale ocean–atmosphere dynamics associated with the Atlantic multidecadal oscillation.

© 2018 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Max C. A. Torbenson, mtorbens@uark.edu

Abstract

Land surface feedbacks impart a significant degree of persistence between cool and warm season moisture availability in the central United States. However, the degree of correlation between these two variables is subject to major changes that appear to occur on decadal to multidecadal time scales, even in the relatively short 115-yr instrumental record. Tree-ring reconstructions have extended the limited observational record of long-term soil moisture levels, but such reconstructions do not resolve the seasonal differences in moisture conditions. We present two separate 331-yr-long seasonal moisture reconstructions for the central United States, based on sensitive subannual and annual tree-ring chronologies that have strong and separate seasonal moisture signals: an estimate of the long-term May soil moisture balance and a second estimate of the short-term June–August atmospheric moisture balance. The predictors used in each seasonal reconstruction are not significantly correlated with the alternate season target. Both reconstructions capture over 70% of the interannual variance in the instrumental data for the calibration period and also share significant decadal and multidecadal variability with the instrumental record in both the calibration and validation periods. The instrumental and reconstructed moisture levels are both positively correlated between spring and summer strongly enough to have potential value in seasonal prediction. However, the relationship between spring and summer moisture exhibits major decadal changes in strength and even sign that appear to be related to large-scale ocean–atmosphere dynamics associated with the Atlantic multidecadal oscillation.

© 2018 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Max C. A. Torbenson, mtorbens@uark.edu
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