Comparing Evaporative Sources of Terrestrial Precipitation and Their Extremes in MERRA Using Relative Entropy

Paul A. Dirmeyer Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Earth Sciences, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, and Center for Ocean–Land–Atmosphere Studies, Institute of Global Environment and Society, Calverton, Maryland

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Jiangfeng Wei Jackson School of Geosciences, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas

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Michael G. Bosilovich Global Modeling and Assimilation Office, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland

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David M. Mocko Global Modeling and Assimilation Office, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, and SAIC, Greenbelt, Maryland

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Abstract

A quasi-isentropic, back-trajectory scheme is applied to output from the Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications (MERRA) and a land-only replay with corrected precipitation to estimate surface evaporative sources of moisture supplying precipitation over every ice-free land location for the period 1979–2005. The evaporative source patterns for any location and time period are effectively two-dimensional probability distributions. As such, the evaporative sources for extreme situations like droughts or wet intervals can be compared to the corresponding climatological distributions using the method of relative entropy. Significant differences are found to be common and widespread for droughts, but not wet periods, when monthly data are examined. At pentad temporal resolution, which is more able to isolate floods and situations of atmospheric rivers, values of relative entropy over North America are typically 50%–400% larger than at monthly time scales. Significant differences suggest that moisture transport may be a key factor in precipitation extremes. Where evaporative sources do not change significantly, it implies other local causes may underlie the extreme events.

Corresponding author address: Paul Dirmeyer, George Mason University, Dept. of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Earth Sciences, 4400 University Dr., Mail Stop 2B3, Fairfax, VA 22030. E-mail: dirmeyer@cola.iges.org

This article is included in the Advancing Drought Monitoring and Prediction Special Collection.

Abstract

A quasi-isentropic, back-trajectory scheme is applied to output from the Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications (MERRA) and a land-only replay with corrected precipitation to estimate surface evaporative sources of moisture supplying precipitation over every ice-free land location for the period 1979–2005. The evaporative source patterns for any location and time period are effectively two-dimensional probability distributions. As such, the evaporative sources for extreme situations like droughts or wet intervals can be compared to the corresponding climatological distributions using the method of relative entropy. Significant differences are found to be common and widespread for droughts, but not wet periods, when monthly data are examined. At pentad temporal resolution, which is more able to isolate floods and situations of atmospheric rivers, values of relative entropy over North America are typically 50%–400% larger than at monthly time scales. Significant differences suggest that moisture transport may be a key factor in precipitation extremes. Where evaporative sources do not change significantly, it implies other local causes may underlie the extreme events.

Corresponding author address: Paul Dirmeyer, George Mason University, Dept. of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Earth Sciences, 4400 University Dr., Mail Stop 2B3, Fairfax, VA 22030. E-mail: dirmeyer@cola.iges.org

This article is included in the Advancing Drought Monitoring and Prediction Special Collection.

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