NATURE AND POSSIBLE CAUSES OF THE NORTHEASTERN UNITED STATES DROUGHT DURING 1962–65

View More View Less
  • 1 Extended Forecast Division, Weather Bureau, Environmental Science Services Administration, Washington, D.C.
Restricted access

Abstract

During the past 4 years noteworthy weather fluctuations of a persistent kind have occurred over large portions of the United States, the most prominent, of which have been the deficiency in precipitation over the Northeast and the excess over the Southwest and the Northern Plains. The nature of these abnormalities is described with the help of seasonal frequency distributions of precipitation determined for 40 climatologically homogeneous areas of the country. From this and other material it is shown that the Northeast drought has been largely a spring and summer phenomenon at the same time when abundant rains occurred over the Northern Plains and Far Southwest.

The large-scale upper-air currents favoring or inhibiting precipitation through interactions with air masses and storms are next described. The most consistent year-to-year feature of these upper winds in the quadrennial has been the persistence of one southward dip in the westerlies just off the eastern seaboard and another over the Far Southwest.

A hypothesis is proposed for the cause of the aberrant, upper-wind currents which considers the atmosphere and ocean as a complex coupled system. Abnormalities of sea-surface temperature are created by anomalous surface wind drag and by extraction of heat by anomalous air masses. The ocean thus serves as a reservoir whose heat transfer affects sequences of atmospheric systems. An attempt is made to show that a feedback system of this type has been operating efficiently during the past 4 years so as to produce the observed anomalous weather patterns.

Abstract

During the past 4 years noteworthy weather fluctuations of a persistent kind have occurred over large portions of the United States, the most prominent, of which have been the deficiency in precipitation over the Northeast and the excess over the Southwest and the Northern Plains. The nature of these abnormalities is described with the help of seasonal frequency distributions of precipitation determined for 40 climatologically homogeneous areas of the country. From this and other material it is shown that the Northeast drought has been largely a spring and summer phenomenon at the same time when abundant rains occurred over the Northern Plains and Far Southwest.

The large-scale upper-air currents favoring or inhibiting precipitation through interactions with air masses and storms are next described. The most consistent year-to-year feature of these upper winds in the quadrennial has been the persistence of one southward dip in the westerlies just off the eastern seaboard and another over the Far Southwest.

A hypothesis is proposed for the cause of the aberrant, upper-wind currents which considers the atmosphere and ocean as a complex coupled system. Abnormalities of sea-surface temperature are created by anomalous surface wind drag and by extraction of heat by anomalous air masses. The ocean thus serves as a reservoir whose heat transfer affects sequences of atmospheric systems. An attempt is made to show that a feedback system of this type has been operating efficiently during the past 4 years so as to produce the observed anomalous weather patterns.

Save