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Tess W. P. Jacobson
,
Richard Seager
,
A. Park Williams
,
Isla R. Simpson
,
Karen A. McKinnon
, and
Haibo Liu

Abstract

On seasonal time scales, vapor pressure deficit (VPD) is a known predictor of burned area in the southwestern United States (“the Southwest”). VPD increases with atmospheric warming due to the exponential relationship between temperature and saturation vapor pressure. Another control on VPD is specific humidity, such that increases in specific humidity can counteract temperature-driven increases in VPD. Unexpectedly, despite the increased capacity of a warmer atmosphere to hold water vapor, near-surface specific humidity decreased from 1970 to 2019 in much of the Southwest, particularly in spring, summer, and fall. Here, we identify declining near-surface humidity from 1970 to 2019 in the southwestern United States with both reanalysis and in situ station data. Focusing on the interior Southwest in the months preceding the summer forest fire season, we explain the decline in terms of changes in atmospheric circulation and moisture fluxes between the surface and the atmosphere. We find that an early spring decline in precipitation in the interior region induced a decline in soil moisture and evapotranspiration, drying the lower troposphere in summer. This prior season precipitation decline is in turn related to a trend toward a Northern Hemisphere stationary wave pattern. Finally, using fixed humidity scenarios and the observed exponential relationship between VPD and burned forest area, we estimate that with no increase in temperature at all, the humidity decline alone would still lead to nearly one-quarter of the observed VPD-induced increase in burned area over 1984–2019.

Significance Statement

Burned forest area has increased significantly in the southwestern United States in recent decades, driven in part by an increase in atmospheric aridity [vapor pressure deficit (VPD)]. Increases in VPD can be caused by a combination of increasing temperature and decreasing specific humidity. As the atmosphere warms with climate change, its capacity to hold moisture increases. Despite this, there is a decrease in near-surface air humidity in the interior southwestern United States over 1970–2019, which during the summer is likely caused by a decline in early spring precipitation leading to limited soil moisture and evaporation in spring and summer. We estimate that this declining humidity alone, without an increase in temperature, would cause about one-quarter of the VPD-induced increase in burned forest area in this region over 1984–2019.

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Shuaibing Shao
,
Xin-Min Zeng
,
Ning Wang
,
Irfan Ullah
, and
Haishen Lv

Abstract

Currently, there is a lack of investigating moisture sources for precipitation over the upstream catchment of the Three Gorges Dam (UCTGD), the world’s largest dam. Using the dynamical recycling model (DRM), trajectory frequency method (TFM), and the Climate Forecast System Reanalysis (CFSR), this study quantifies moisture sources and transport paths for UCTGD summer precipitation from 1980 to 2009 based on two categories of sources: region-specific and source-direction. Overall, the land and oceanic sources contribute roughly 63% and 37%, respectively, of the moisture to UCTGD summer precipitation. UCTGD and the Indian Ocean are the most important land and oceanic sources, respectively, in which the southern Indian Ocean with over 10% of moisture contribution was overlooked previously. Under the influence of the Asian monsoon and prevailing westerlies, the land contribution decreases to 57.3% in June, then gradually increases to 68.8%. It is found that for drought years with enhanced southwest monsoon, there is a weakening of the moisture contribution from the C-shaped belt along the Arabian Sea, South Asia, and UCTGD, and vice versa. TFM results show three main moisture transport paths and highlight the importance of moisture from the southwest. Comparison analysis indicates that, generally, sink regions are more affected by land evaporation with their locations more interior to the center of the mainland. Furthermore, correlations between moisture contributions and indices of general circulation and sea surface temperature are investigated, suggesting that these indices affect precipitation by influencing moisture contributions of the subregions. All of these are useful for comprehending the causes of summer UCTGD precipitation.

Significance Statement

Quantitative research on the moisture sources of summer precipitation has been implemented for the upstream catchment of the Three Gorges Dam (UCTGD), which is of particular hydrological significance but has not been investigated previously. The dynamical recycling model (DRM)–trajectory frequency method (TFM) approach is used to quantify and interpret the results of the moisture sources both in different specific subregions and directions, which produce more meaningful results than a single method for the areal division of moisture sources. Furthermore, antecedent indices that significantly influence the following moisture contributions of the subregions and then summer UCTGD precipitation are studied in terms of large-scale general circulation indices, which would help our understanding of precipitation forecast for UCTGD.

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Enrico Chinchella
,
Arianna Cauteruccio
, and
Luca G. Lanza

Abstract

The measurement accuracy of an electroacoustic precipitation sensor, the Vaisala WXT520, is investigated to quantify the associated wind-induced bias. The device is widely used as a noncatching tool for measuring the integral features of liquid precipitation, specifically rainfall amount and intensity. A numerical simulation using computational fluid dynamics is used to determine the bluff-body behavior of the instrument when exposed to wind. The obtained airflow velocity patterns near the sensor are initially validated in a wind tunnel. Then, the wind-induced deviation and acceleration/deceleration of individual raindrop trajectories and the resulting impact on the measured precipitation are replicated using a Lagrangian particle tracking model. The sensor’s specific measurement principle necessitates redefining catch ratios and the collection efficiency in terms of the resulting kinetic energy and quantifying them as a function of particle Reynolds number and precipitation intensity, respectively. Wind speed and direction and drop size distribution have been simulated across various combinations. The results show that the measured precipitation is overestimated by up to 400% under the influence of wind. The presented adjustment curves can be used to correct raw rainfall measurements taken by the Vaisala WXT520 in windy conditions, either in real time or as a postprocessing function. The magnitude of the adjustment at any operational aggregation level largely depends on the local rainfall and wind regimes at the site of measurement and may have a strong impact on applications in regions where wind is frequent during low- to medium-intensity precipitation.

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Juliana Valencia
,
Johanna Yepes
,
John F. Mejía
,
Alejandro Builes-Jaramillo
, and
Hernán D. Salas

Abstract

This study investigates how convectively coupled tropical easterly waves (TEWs) affect the Choco low-level jet (ChocoJet) as they move across the western Caribbean. The ChocoJet is a low-level flow over the eastern Pacific (EPAC) that modulates precipitation patterns over the tropical eastern Pacific and northwestern South America. By combining data from the Organization of Tropical East Pacific Convection (OTREC; August–September 2019), ERA5 reanalysis products, and satellite data, we analyze precipitation and circulation patterns during convectively coupled and nonconvectively coupled TEWs, comparing them to non-TEW days. During convectively coupled TEWs days, the ChocoJet strengthens and becomes more southerly, while the ITCZ moves northward, leading to enhanced precipitation over the western Caribbean and drier conditions over the northern part of the Colombian Pacific. In contrast, nonconvectively coupled TEW days exhibit reduced precipitation and precipitable water over the Caribbean and far EPAC, with a layer of northeasterly flow centered at 850 hPa flowing over a shallower, weaker, and more westerly ChocoJet. Additionally, convectively coupled TEWs are associated with a weaker western Caribbean and far eastern Pacific pressure gradient compared to nonconvective TEWs. These observable and predictable synoptic-scale circulation–precipitation relationships contribute to a better understanding of hydrometeorological variability in the region.

Significance Statement

Tropical easterly waves and related convective organization traversing the Caribbean Sea are important sources of synoptic-scale precipitation–circulation variability in the far eastern Pacific and Colombian Pacific. This eastern tropical Pacific study aims to identify precipitation–circulation relationships that enhance the understanding of synoptic-scale meteorological phenomena.

Open access
Vincent Sasseville
,
Alexandre Langlois
,
Ludovic Brucker
, and
Cheryl Ann Johnson

Abstract

Climate change has a profound effect on Arctic meteorology extreme events, such as rain-on-snow (ROS), which affects surface state variable spatial and temporal variability. Passive microwave satellite images can help detect such events in polar regions where local meteorological and snow information is scarce. In this study, we use a detection algorithm using high-resolution passive microwave data to monitor spatial and temporal variability of ROS over the Canadian Arctic Archipelago from 1987 to 2019. The method is validated using data from several meteorological stations and atmospheric corrections have been applied to the passive microwave dataset. Our approach to detect ROS is based on two methods: 1) over a fixed time period (i.e., 1 November–31 May) throughout the study period and 2) using an a priori detection for snow presence before applying our ROS algorithm (i.e., length of studied winter varies yearly). Event occurrence is analyzed for each winter and separated by island groups of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Results show an increase in absolute ROS occurrence, mainly along the coasts, although no statistically significant trends are observed.

Significance Statement

Rain-on-snow (ROS) is known to have significant consequences on vegetation and fauna, especially widespread events. This study aimed to use a recent high-resolution dataset of passive microwave observations to investigate spatial and temporal trends in ROS occurrence in the Arctic. Results show that a global increase in event occurrence can be observed across the arctic.

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Ali Behrangi
,
Yang Song
,
George J. Huffman
, and
Robert F. Adler

Abstract

Satellites bring opportunities to quantify precipitation amount and distribution over the globe, critical to understanding how the Earth system works. The amount and spatial distribution of oceanic precipitation from the latest versions (V07 and the previous version) of the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory instruments and selected members of the constellation of passive microwave sensors are quantified and compared with other products such as the Global Precipitation Climatology Project (GPCP V3.2); the Merged CloudSat, TRMM, and GPM (MCTG) climatology; and ERA5. Results show that GPM V07 products have a higher precipitation rate than the previous version, except for the radar-only product. Within ∼65°S–65°N, covered by all of the instruments, this increase ranges from about 9% for the combined radar–radiometer product to about 16% for radiometer-only products. While GPM precipitation products still show lower mean precipitation rate than MCTG (except over the tropics and Arctic Ocean), the V07 products (except radar-only) are generally more consistent with MCTG and GPCP V3.2 than V05. Over the tropics (25°S–25°N), passive microwave sounders show the highest precipitation rate among all of the precipitation products studied and the highest increase (∼19%) compared to their previous version. Precipitation products are least consistent in midlatitude oceans in the Southern Hemisphere, displaying the largest spread in mean precipitation rate and location of latitudinal peak precipitation. Precipitation products tend to show larger spread over regions with low and high values of sea surface temperature and total precipitable water. The analysis highlights major discrepancies among the products and areas for future research.

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Zachary F. Johnson
,
Jacob Stuivenvolt-Allen
,
Hayden Mahan
,
Jonathan D. D. Meyer
, and
Matthew Miksch

Abstract

The southwestern United States is highly sensitive to drought, prompting efforts to understand and predict its hydroclimate. Oftentimes, the emphasis is on wintertime precipitation variability, yet the southwestern United States exhibits a summertime monsoon where a significant portion of annual precipitation falls through daily convection activities manifested by a midtropospheric ridge of high pressure. Here, we examine synoptic patterns of the southwestern ridge through a k-means clustering analysis and assess how these synoptic patterns translate into streamflow changes in the upper Colorado River basin. A linear perspective suggests ∼17% of upper Colorado River discharge at the Lee’s Ferry, Arizona, gauge comes from summertime monsoon rains. The ridge of high pressure exhibits diversity in its intensity, structure, and position, inducing changes in moisture advection and precipitation. A ridge shifted north or east of its climatological center increases moisture and precipitation over the southwestern United States, while a ridge toward the south or northwest inhibits precipitation. A ridge east of its climatological center contributes to increased streamflow, whereas a ridge west or northwest of its climatological center decreases streamflow. Cooling in the central tropical Pacific and the Pacific meridional mode region favors an eastward shift of the ridge of high pressure corresponding to wet days. Eastern tropical Pacific warming favors a southward shift of the ridge corresponding to dry days. These results support an intermediate scale between climate forcing and summertime Colorado River discharge through changes in the intensity, structure, and position of the southwestern ridge of high pressure, integral to the U.S. Southwest hydroclimate.

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Benjamin I. Cook
,
Weston Anderson
,
Kimberly Slinski
,
Shraddhanand Shukla
, and
Amy McNally

Abstract

The state of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is critical for seasonal climate forecasts, but recent events diverged substantially from expectations in many regions, including sub-Saharan Africa where seasonal forecasts are critical tools for addressing food security. Here, we evaluate 39 years (1982–2020) of data on hydroclimate, leaf area index, and maize yields to investigate the strength of ENSO teleconnections in southern and East Africa. Teleconnections to precipitation, soil moisture, and leaf area index are generally stronger during ENSO phases that cause drought conditions (El Niño in southern Africa and La Niña in East Africa), with seasonality that aligns well with the maize growing seasons. Within maize growing areas, however, ENSO teleconnections to hydroclimate and vegetation are generally weaker compared to the broader geographic regions, especially in East Africa. There is also little evidence that the magnitude of the ENSO event affects the hydroclimate or vegetation response in these maize regions. Maize yields in Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, and Zimbabwe all correlate significantly with hydroclimate and leaf area index, with South Africa and Zimbabwe showing the strongest and most consistent yield responses to ENSO events. Our results highlight the chain of causality from El Niño and La Niña forcing of regional anomalies in hydroclimate to vegetation health and maize yields in southern and East Africa. The large spread across individual ENSO events, however, underscores the limitations of this climate mode for seasonal climate prediction in the region, and the importance of finding additional sources of skill for improving climate and yield forecasts.

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