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Michelle Hallack-Alegria and David W. Watkins Jr.

Abstract

Located in northwestern Mexico, Sonora is a region affected by the North American monsoon (NAM). The region covers nearly 50% of the North American Sonoran Desert and is characterized by climatic conditions ranging from extremely arid to semiarid. The region has suffered from drought since 1995, and consequently, water supplies are threatened. The objectives of this work are to characterize the spatial and temporal variabilities of precipitation in Sonora and to conduct a meteorological drought intensity–duration–frequency analysis based on annual and warm season precipitation records. Monthly precipitation data are compiled from 76 meteorological stations located in Sonora, along with 19 stations in the neighboring American state of Arizona, for the period 1961–2004. For increased reliability, data are pooled within five plausible climatic regions. Among the results reported herein are summaries of precipitation variability, drought frequency estimates for annual and seasonal durations and return periods of 10–100 yr, and an estimate of the return period of the most recent multiyear drought.

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Andrea J. Ray, Gregg M. Garfin, Margaret Wilder, Marcela Vásquez-León, Melanie Lenart, and Andrew C. Comrie

Abstract

This article presents ongoing efforts to understand interactions between the North American monsoon and society in order to develop applications for monsoon research in a highly complex, multicultural, and binational region. The North American monsoon is an annual precipitation regime that begins in early June in Mexico and progresses northward to the southwestern United States. The region includes stakeholders in large urban complexes, productive agricultural areas, and sparsely populated arid and semiarid ecosystems. The political, cultural, and socioeconomic divisions between the United States and Mexico create a broad range of sensitivities to climate variability as well as capacities to use forecasts and other information to cope with climate.

This paper highlights methodologies to link climate science with society and to analyze opportunities for monsoon science to benefit society in four sectors: natural hazards management, agriculture, public health, and water management. A list of stakeholder needs and a calendar of decisions is synthesized to help scientists link user needs to potential forecasts and products. To ensure usability of forecasts and other research products, iterative scientist–stakeholder interactions, through integrated assessments, are recommended. These knowledge-exchange interactions can improve the capacity for stakeholders to use forecasts thoughtfully and inform the development of research, and for the research community to obtain feedback on climate-related products and receive insights to guide research direction. It is expected that integrated assessments can capitalize on the opportunities for monsoon science to inform decision making and, in the best instances, reduce regional climate vulnerabilities and enhance regional sustainability.

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Christopher J. Watts, Russell L. Scott, Jaime Garatuza-Payan, Julio C. Rodriguez, John H. Prueger, William P. Kustas, and Michael Douglas

Abstract

The vegetation in the core region of the North American monsoon (NAM) system changes dramatically after the onset of the summer rains so that large changes may be expected in the surface fluxes of radiation, heat, and moisture. Most of this region lies in the rugged terrain of western Mexico and very few measurements of these fluxes have been made in the past. Surface energy balance measurements were made at seven sites in Sonora, Mexico, and Arizona during the intensive observation period (IOP) of the North American Monsoon Experiment (NAME) in summer 2004 to better understand how land surface vegetation change alters energy flux partitioning. Satellite data were used to obtain time series for vegetation indices and land surface temperature for these sites. The results were analyzed to contrast conditions before the onset of the monsoon with those afterward. As expected, precipitation during the 2004 monsoon was highly variable from site to site, but it fell in greater quantities at the more southern sites. Likewise, large changes in the vegetation index were observed, especially for the subtropical sites in Sonora. However, the changes in the broadband albedo were very small, which was rather surprising. The surface net radiation was consistent with the previous observations, being largest for surfaces that are transpiring and cool, and smallest for surfaces that are dry and hot. The largest evaporation rates were observed for the subtropical forest and riparian vegetation sites. The evaporative fraction for the forest site was highly correlated with its vegetation index, except during the dry spell in August. This period was clearly detected in the land surface temperature data, which rose steadily in this period to a maximum at its end.

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Arthur V. Douglas and Phillip J. Englehart

Abstract

This note provides a first look at a recently developed long-term climatology of transient synoptic features in northern Mexico. Key features investigated include inverted troughs, cutoff lows, cold fronts, and open troughs (westerly short waves). This 35-yr analysis of transient systems crossing northern Mexico (1967–2001) was developed to help place the summer climatology of the 2004 North American Monsoon Experiment (NAME) into a broader perspective. Inverted troughs are found to be the most commonly occurring transient synoptic feature during the monsoon with a mean frequency of occurrence of 55 days per summer season (June–September). Inverted troughs are found to contribute from 20% to 25% of the average summer rainfall observed in northern Mexico. Rainfall doubles during inverted trough days compared to days without transient systems being present.

In 2004 the monsoon season was greatly shortened due to a poorly developed subtropical high. Compared to long-term means, inverted troughs contributed less rainfall to the region in 2004 and this was, in part, associated with the shortened monsoon season. In contrast, frontal penetration into the region was almost double the 35-yr mean. These climatologies are designed to provide NAME researchers with benchmarks to assess model performance relative to how these models handle these systems and their associated rainfall. The work presented is a small portion of a much larger study that aims to determine the impact of all of these rain-bearing transient systems on the monsoon in northern Mexico.

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J. Craig Collier and Guang J. Zhang

Abstract

Simulation of the North American monsoon system by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Community Atmosphere Model (CAM3) is evaluated in its sensitivity to increasing horizontal resolution. For two resolutions, T42 and T85, rainfall is compared to Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite-derived and surface gauge-based rainfall rates over the United States and northern Mexico as well as rainfall accumulations in gauges of the North American Monsoon Experiment (NAME) Enhanced Rain Gauge Network (NERN) in the Sierra Madre Occidental. Simulated upper-tropospheric mass and wind fields are compared to those from NCEP–NCAR reanalyses. The comparison presented herein demonstrates that tropospheric motions associated with the North American monsoon system are sensitive to increasing the horizontal resolution of the model. An increase in resolution from T42 to T85 results in changes to a region of large-scale midtropospheric descent found north and east of the monsoon anticyclone. Relative to its simulation at T42, this region extends farther south and west at T85. Additionally, at T85, the subsidence is stronger. Consistent with the differences in large-scale descent, the T85 simulation of CAM3 is anomalously dry over Texas and northeastern Mexico during the peak monsoon months. Meanwhile, the geographic distribution of rainfall over the Sierra Madre Occidental region of Mexico is more satisfactorily simulated at T85 than at T42 for July and August. Moisture import into this region is greater at T85 than at T42 during these months. A focused study of the Sierra Madre Occidental region in particular shows that, in the regional-average sense, the timing of the peak of the monsoon is relatively insensitive to the horizontal resolution of the model, while a phase bias in the diurnal cycle of monsoon season precipitation is somewhat reduced in the higher-resolution run. At both resolutions, CAM3 poorly simulates the month-to-month evolution of monsoon rainfall over extreme northwestern Mexico and Arizona, though biases are considerably improved at T85.

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John E. Janowiak, Valery J. Dagostaro, Vernon E. Kousky, and Robert J. Joyce

Abstract

Summertime rainfall over the United States and Mexico is examined and is compared with forecasts from operational numerical prediction models. In particular, the distribution of rainfall amounts is examined and the diurnal cycle of rainfall is investigated and compared with the model forecasts. This study focuses on a 35-day period (12 July–15 August 2004) that occurred amid the North American Monsoon Experiment (NAME) field campaign. Three-hour precipitation forecasts from the numerical models were validated against satellite-derived estimates of rainfall that were adjusted by daily rain gauge data to remove bias from the remotely sensed estimates. The model forecasts that are evaluated are for the 36–60-h period after the model initial run time so that the effects of updated observational data are reduced substantially and a more direct evaluation of the model precipitation parameterization can be accomplished.

The main findings of this study show that the effective spatial resolution of the model-generated precipitation is considerably more coarse than the native model resolution. On a national scale, the models overforecast the frequency of rainfall events in the 1–75 mm day−1 range and underforecast heavy events (>85 mm day−1). The models also have a diurnal cycle that peaks 3–6 h earlier than is observed over portions of the eastern United States and the NAME tier-1 region. Time series and harmonic analysis are used to identify where the models perform well and poorly in characterizing the amplitude and phase of the diurnal cycle of precipitation.

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Kingtse C. Mo, Eric Rogers, Wesley Ebisuzaki, R. Wayne Higgins, J. Woollen, and M. L. Carrera

Abstract

During the 2004 North American Monsoon Experiment (NAME) field campaign, an extensive set of enhanced atmospheric soundings was gathered over the southwest United States and Mexico. Most of these soundings were assimilated into the NCEP operational global and regional data assimilation systems in real time. This presents a unique opportunity to carry out a series of data assimilation experiments to examine their influence on the NCEP analyses and short-range forecasts. To quantify these impacts, several data-withholding experiments were carried out using the global Climate Data Assimilation System (CDAS), the Regional Climate Data Assimilation System (RCDAS), and the three-dimensional variational data assimilation (3DVAR) Eta Model Data Assimilation System (EDAS) for the NAME 2004 enhanced observation period (EOP).

The impacts of soundings vary between the assimilation systems examined in this study. Overall, the influence of the enhanced soundings is concentrated over the core monsoon area. While differences at upper levels are small, the differences at lower levels are more substantial. The coarse-resolution CDAS does not properly resolve the Gulf of California (GoC), so the assimilation system is not able to exploit the additional soundings to improve characteristics of the Gulf of California low-level jet (GCLLJ) and the associated moisture transport in the GoC region. In contrast, the GCLLJ produced by RCDAS is conspicuously stronger than the observations, though the problem is somewhat alleviated with additional special NAME soundings. For EDAS, soundings improve the intensity and position of the Great Plains low-level jet (GPLLJ). The soundings in general improve the analyses over the areas where the assimilation system has the largest uncertainties and errors. However, the differences in regional analyses owing to the soundings are smaller than the differences between the two regional data assimilation systems.

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Chunmei Zhu and Dennis P. Lettenmaier

Abstract

Studying the role of land surface conditions in the Mexican portion of the North American monsoon system (NAMS) region has been a challenge due to the paucity of long-term observations. A long-term gridded observation-based climate dataset suitable for forcing land surface models, as well as model-derived land surface states and fluxes for a domain consisting of all of Mexico, is described. The datasets span the period of January 1925–October 2004 at 1/8° spatial resolution at a subdaily (3 h) time step. The simulated runoff matches the observations plausibly over most of the 14 small river basins spanning all of Mexico, which suggests that long-term mean evapotranspiration is realistically reproduced. On this basis, and given the physically based model parameterizations of soil moisture and energy fluxes, the other surface fluxes and state variables such as soil moisture should be represented reasonably. In addition, a comparison of the surface fluxes from this study is performed with North American Regional Reanalysis (NARR) data on a seasonal mean basis. The results indicate that downward shortwave radiation is generally smaller than in the NARR data, especially in summer. Net radiation, on the other hand, is somewhat larger in the Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC) hydrological model than in the NARR data for much of the year over much of the domain. The differences in radiative and turbulent fluxes are attributed to (i) the parameterization used in the VIC forcings for solar and downward longwave radiation, which links them to the daily temperature and temperature range, and (ii) differences in the land surface parameterizations used in VIC and the NCEP–Oregon State University–U.S. Air Force–NWS/Hydrologic Research Lab (Noah) land scheme used in NARR.

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X. Gao, J. Li, and S. Sorooshian

Abstract

This study examines the capabilities and limitations of the fifth-generation Pennsylvania State University–National Center for Atmospheric Research Mesoscale Model (MM5) in predicting the precipitation and circulation features that accompanied the 2004 North American monsoon (NAM). When the model is reinitialized every 5 days to restrain the growth of modeling errors, its results for precipitation checked at subseasonal time scales (not for individual rainfall events) become comparable with ground- and satellite-based observations as well as with the NAM’s diagnostic characteristics. The modeled monthly precipitation illustrates the evolution patterns of monsoon rainfall, although it underestimates the rainfall amount and coverage area in comparison with observations. The modeled daily precipitation shows the transition from dry to wet episodes on the monsoon onset day over the Arizona–New Mexico region, and the multiday heavy rainfall (>1 mm day−1) and dry periods after the onset. All these modeling predictions agree with observed variations. The model also accurately simulated the onset and ending dates of four major moisture surges over the Gulf of California during the 2004 monsoon season. The model reproduced the strong diurnal variability of the NAM precipitation, but did not predict the observed diurnal feature of the precipitation peak’s shift from the mountains to the coast during local afternoon to late night. In general, the model is able to reproduce the major, critical patterns and dynamic variations of the NAM rainfall at intraseasonal time scales, but still includes errors in precipitation quantity, pattern, and timing. The numerical study suggests that these errors are due largely to deficiencies in the model’s cumulus convective parameterization scheme, which is responsible for the model’s precipitation generation.

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Wanqiu Wang and Pingping Xie

Abstract

Previous observational studies indicated that local sea surface temperatures (SSTs) near the west coast of the United States, in the Gulf of California, and in the Gulf of Mexico have strong impacts on the North American monsoon (NAM) system. Simulations of the NAM by numerical models are also found to be sensitive to the specification of SSTs. Accordingly, a reliable SST dataset is essential for improving the understanding, simulation, and prediction of the NAM system. In this study, a new fine-resolution SST analysis is constructed by merging in situ observations from ships and buoys with retrievals from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellites (NOAA-16 and NOAA-17), Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES), the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) Microwave Imager (TMI), and the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer (AMSR). Called the multiplatform-merged (MPM) SST analysis, this new product of 3-hourly SST is defined on a 0.25° × 0.25° latitude–longitude grid over the Western Hemisphere (30°S–60°N, 180°–30°W). The analysis for the period of 15 May–30 September 2004 shows that the MPM is capable of capturing small-scale disturbances such as those associated with the tropical instability waves. It also depicts local sharp gradients around Baja California and the Gulf Stream with reasonable accuracy compared with the existing analyses. Experiments have been conducted to examine the impacts of the addition of satellite observations on the quality of the MPM analysis. Results showed that inclusion of observations from more satellites progressively improves the quantitative accuracy, especially for diurnal amplitude of the analysis, indicating the importance of accommodating observations from multiple platforms in depicting critical details in an SST analysis with high temporal and spatial resolutions.

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