Characteristics of Drought and Persistent Wet Spells over the United States in the Atmosphere–Land–Ocean Coupled Model Experiments

Kingtse C. Mo Climate Prediction Center, NOAA/NWS/NCEP, Camp Springs, Maryland

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Lindsey N. Long Climate Prediction Center, NOAA/NWS/NCEP, Camp Springs, Maryland

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Jae-Kyung E. Schemm Climate Prediction Center, NOAA/NWS/NCEP, Camp Springs, Maryland

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Abstract

Atmosphere–land–ocean coupled model simulations are examined to diagnose the ability of models to simulate drought and persistent wet spells over the United States. A total of seven models are selected for this study. They are three versions of the NCEP Climate Forecast System (CFS) coupled general circulation model (CGCM) with a T382, T126, and T62 horizontal resolution; GFDL Climate Model version 2.0 (CM2.0); GFDL CM2.1; Max Planck Institute (MPI) ECHAM5; and third climate configuration of the Met Office Unified Model (HadCM3) simulations from the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 3 (CMIP3) experiments.

Over the United States, drought and persistent wet spells are more likely to occur over the western interior region, while extreme events are less likely to persist over the eastern United States and the West Coast. For meteorological drought, which is defined by precipitation (P) deficit, the east–west contrast is well simulated by the CFS T382 and the T126 models. The HadCM3 captures the pattern but not the magnitudes of the frequency of occurrence of persistent extreme events. For agricultural drought, which is defined by soil moisture (SM) deficit, the CFS T382, CFS T126, MPI ECHAM5, and HadCM3 models capture the east–west contrast.

The models that capture the west–east contrast also have a realistic P climatology and seasonal cycle. ENSO is the dominant mode that modulates P over the United States. A model needs to have the ENSO mode and capture the mean P responses to ENSO in order to simulate realistic drought. To simulate realistic agricultural drought, the model needs to capture the persistence of SM anomalies over the western region.

Corresponding author address: Kingtse C. Mo, Climate Prediction Center, NOAA/NWS, 5200 Auth Rd., Camp Springs, MD 20746. E-mail address: kingtse.mo@noaa.gov

This article is included in the Drought: Advances in Monitoring, Preparedness, and Understanding Drought Characteristics special collection.

Abstract

Atmosphere–land–ocean coupled model simulations are examined to diagnose the ability of models to simulate drought and persistent wet spells over the United States. A total of seven models are selected for this study. They are three versions of the NCEP Climate Forecast System (CFS) coupled general circulation model (CGCM) with a T382, T126, and T62 horizontal resolution; GFDL Climate Model version 2.0 (CM2.0); GFDL CM2.1; Max Planck Institute (MPI) ECHAM5; and third climate configuration of the Met Office Unified Model (HadCM3) simulations from the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 3 (CMIP3) experiments.

Over the United States, drought and persistent wet spells are more likely to occur over the western interior region, while extreme events are less likely to persist over the eastern United States and the West Coast. For meteorological drought, which is defined by precipitation (P) deficit, the east–west contrast is well simulated by the CFS T382 and the T126 models. The HadCM3 captures the pattern but not the magnitudes of the frequency of occurrence of persistent extreme events. For agricultural drought, which is defined by soil moisture (SM) deficit, the CFS T382, CFS T126, MPI ECHAM5, and HadCM3 models capture the east–west contrast.

The models that capture the west–east contrast also have a realistic P climatology and seasonal cycle. ENSO is the dominant mode that modulates P over the United States. A model needs to have the ENSO mode and capture the mean P responses to ENSO in order to simulate realistic drought. To simulate realistic agricultural drought, the model needs to capture the persistence of SM anomalies over the western region.

Corresponding author address: Kingtse C. Mo, Climate Prediction Center, NOAA/NWS, 5200 Auth Rd., Camp Springs, MD 20746. E-mail address: kingtse.mo@noaa.gov

This article is included in the Drought: Advances in Monitoring, Preparedness, and Understanding Drought Characteristics special collection.

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