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Role of Sea Surface Temperatures in Forcing Circulation Anomalies Driving U.S. Great Plains Pluvial Years

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  • 1 School of Meteorology, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma, and High Plains Regional Climate Center, and School of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska
  • 2 School of Meteorology, and School of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma
  • 3 School of Meteorology, University of Oklahoma, and South Central Climate Adaptation Science Center, Norman, Oklahoma
  • 4 Department of Microbiology and Plant Biology, Center for Spatial Analysis, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma
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Abstract

In the U.S. Great Plains (GP), diagnosing precipitation variability is key in developing an understanding of the present and future availability of water in the region. Building on previous work investigating U.S. GP pluvial years, this study uses ERA twentieth century (ERA-20C) reanalysis data to investigate key circulation anomalies driving GP precipitation anomalies during a subset of GP pluvial years (called in this paper Pattern pluvial years). With previous research showing links between tropical Pacific sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies and GP climate variability, this study diagnoses the key circulation anomalies through an analysis of SSTs and their influence on the atmosphere. Results show that during Pattern southern Great Plains (SGP) pluvial years, central tropical Pacific SST anomalies are coincident with key atmospheric anomalies across the Pacific basin and North America. During northern Great Plains (NGP) Pattern pluvial years, no specific pattern of oceanic anomalies emerges that forces the circulation anomaly feature inherent in specific NGP pluvial years. Utilizing the results for SGP pluvial years, a conceptual model is developed detailing the identified pathway for the occurrence of circulation patterns that are favorable for pluvial years over the SGP. Overall, results from this study show the importance of the identified SGP atmospheric anomaly signal and the potential for predictability of such events.

© 2019 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: Paul Flanagan, pflanagan3@unl.edu

Abstract

In the U.S. Great Plains (GP), diagnosing precipitation variability is key in developing an understanding of the present and future availability of water in the region. Building on previous work investigating U.S. GP pluvial years, this study uses ERA twentieth century (ERA-20C) reanalysis data to investigate key circulation anomalies driving GP precipitation anomalies during a subset of GP pluvial years (called in this paper Pattern pluvial years). With previous research showing links between tropical Pacific sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies and GP climate variability, this study diagnoses the key circulation anomalies through an analysis of SSTs and their influence on the atmosphere. Results show that during Pattern southern Great Plains (SGP) pluvial years, central tropical Pacific SST anomalies are coincident with key atmospheric anomalies across the Pacific basin and North America. During northern Great Plains (NGP) Pattern pluvial years, no specific pattern of oceanic anomalies emerges that forces the circulation anomaly feature inherent in specific NGP pluvial years. Utilizing the results for SGP pluvial years, a conceptual model is developed detailing the identified pathway for the occurrence of circulation patterns that are favorable for pluvial years over the SGP. Overall, results from this study show the importance of the identified SGP atmospheric anomaly signal and the potential for predictability of such events.

© 2019 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: Paul Flanagan, pflanagan3@unl.edu
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