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Model and Observational Analysis of the Northeast U.S. Regional Climate and Its Relationship to the PNA and NAO Patterns during Early Winter

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  • 1 Center for Climatic Research, University of Wisconsin—Madison, Madison, Wisconsin
  • | 2 Atmospheric Sciences Research Center, University at Albany, State University of New York, Albany, New York
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Abstract

The relationship between the large-scale circulation and regional climate of the northeast United States is investigated for early winter using observational data and the State University of New York at Albany regional climate model. Simulated patterns of temperature, precipitation, and atmospheric circulation compare well with observations, despite a cold, dry bias. Ten December runs are analyzed to investigate the impact of the Pacific–North American (PNA) pattern on temperature, precipitation, clouds, and circulation features. During a positive PNA pattern, the simulated and observed eastern U.S. jet shifts to the southeast, coinciding with cold, dry conditions in the Northeast. This shift and intensification of the upper-level jet stream during a positive PNA pattern coincides with a greater frequency of cyclones and anticyclones along a distinct southwest–northeast track. Despite increased cyclone activity, total wintertime precipitation is below normal during a positive PNA pattern because of enhanced stability and subsidence over land, along with lower-atmospheric moisture content. Lower surface air temperatures during a positive PNA pattern result in enhanced simulated cloud cover over the Great Lakes and Atlantic Ocean due to increased thermal contrast and fluxes of sensible and latent heat, and a reduction in clouds over land. Interactions between the PNA and North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) patterns impact the Northeast winter climate. Observed frontal passages through New York are most abundant during a negative PNA and positive NAO pattern, with a zonal upper-level jet positioned over New York. A positive PNA pattern is frequently characterized by an earlier observed Great Lakes ice season, while the greatest lake-effect snowfall occurs during a positive PNA and negative NAO pattern. The NAO pattern has the largest impact on northeast U.S. temperatures and the eastern U.S. upper-level jet during a positive PNA pattern.

Corresponding author address: Michael Notaro, Center for Climatic Research, University of Wisconsin—Madison, Madison, WI 53706. Email: mnotaro@wisc.edu

Abstract

The relationship between the large-scale circulation and regional climate of the northeast United States is investigated for early winter using observational data and the State University of New York at Albany regional climate model. Simulated patterns of temperature, precipitation, and atmospheric circulation compare well with observations, despite a cold, dry bias. Ten December runs are analyzed to investigate the impact of the Pacific–North American (PNA) pattern on temperature, precipitation, clouds, and circulation features. During a positive PNA pattern, the simulated and observed eastern U.S. jet shifts to the southeast, coinciding with cold, dry conditions in the Northeast. This shift and intensification of the upper-level jet stream during a positive PNA pattern coincides with a greater frequency of cyclones and anticyclones along a distinct southwest–northeast track. Despite increased cyclone activity, total wintertime precipitation is below normal during a positive PNA pattern because of enhanced stability and subsidence over land, along with lower-atmospheric moisture content. Lower surface air temperatures during a positive PNA pattern result in enhanced simulated cloud cover over the Great Lakes and Atlantic Ocean due to increased thermal contrast and fluxes of sensible and latent heat, and a reduction in clouds over land. Interactions between the PNA and North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) patterns impact the Northeast winter climate. Observed frontal passages through New York are most abundant during a negative PNA and positive NAO pattern, with a zonal upper-level jet positioned over New York. A positive PNA pattern is frequently characterized by an earlier observed Great Lakes ice season, while the greatest lake-effect snowfall occurs during a positive PNA and negative NAO pattern. The NAO pattern has the largest impact on northeast U.S. temperatures and the eastern U.S. upper-level jet during a positive PNA pattern.

Corresponding author address: Michael Notaro, Center for Climatic Research, University of Wisconsin—Madison, Madison, WI 53706. Email: mnotaro@wisc.edu

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