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Richard H. Johnson, Paul E. Ciesielski, Brian D. McNoldy, Peter J. Rogers, and Richard K. Taft

Abstract

The 2004 North American Monsoon Experiment (NAME) provided an unprecedented observing network for studying the structure and evolution of the North American monsoon. This paper focuses on multiscale characteristics of the flow during NAME from the large scale to the mesoscale using atmospheric sounding data from the enhanced observing network.

The onset of the 2004 summer monsoon over the NAME region accompanied the typical northward shift of the upper-level anticyclone or monsoon high over northern Mexico into the southwestern United States, but in 2004 this shift occurred slightly later than normal and the monsoon high did not extend as far north as usual. Consequently, precipitation over the southwestern United States was slightly below normal, although increased troughiness over the Great Plains contributed to increased rainfall over eastern New Mexico and western Texas. The first major pulse of moisture into the Southwest occurred around 13 July in association with a strong Gulf of California surge. This surge was linked to the westward passages of Tropical Storm Blas to the south and an upper-level inverted trough over northern Texas. The development of Blas appeared to be favored as an easterly wave moved into the eastern Pacific during the active phase of a Madden–Julian oscillation.

On the regional scale, sounding data reveal a prominent sea breeze along the east shore of the Gulf of California, with a deep return flow as a consequence of the elevated Sierra Madre Occidental (SMO) immediately to the east. Subsidence produced a dry layer over the gulf, whereas a deep moist layer existed over the west slopes of the SMO. A prominent nocturnal low-level jet was present on most days over the northern gulf. The diurnal cycle of heating and moistening (Q 1 and Q 2) over the SMO was characterized by deep convective profiles in the mid- to upper troposphere at 1800 LT, followed by stratiform-like profiles at midnight, consistent with the observed diurnal evolution of precipitation over this coastal mountainous region. The analyses in the core NAME domain are based on a gridded dataset derived from atmospheric soundings only and, therefore, should prove useful in validating reanalyses and regional models.

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Paquita Zuidema, Chris Fairall, Leslie M. Hartten, Jeffrey E. Hare, and Daniel Wolfe

Abstract

Surface flux, wind profiler, oceanic temperature and salinity, and atmospheric moisture, cloud, and wind observations gathered from the R/V Altair during the North American Monsoon Experiment (NAME) are presented. The vessel was positioned at the mouth of the Gulf of California halfway between La Paz and Mazatlan (∼23.5°N, 108°W), from 7 July to 11 August 2004, with a break from 22 to 27 July. Experiment-mean findings include a net heat input from the atmosphere into the ocean of 70 W m−2. The dominant cooling was an experiment-mean latent heat flux of 108 W m−2, equivalent to an evaporation rate of 0.16 mm h−1. Total accumulated rainfall amounted to 42 mm. The oceanic mixed layer had a depth of approximately 20 m and both warmed and freshened during the experiment, despite a dominance of evaporation over local precipitation. The mean atmospheric boundary layer depth was approximately 410 m, deepening with time from an initial value of 350 m. The mean near-surface relative humidity was 66%, increasing to 73% at the top of the boundary layer. The rawinsondes documented an additional moist layer between 2- and 3-km altitude associated with a land–sea breeze, and a broad moist layer at 5–6 km associated with land-based convective outflow. The observational period included a strong gulf surge around 13 July associated with the onset of the summer monsoon in southern Arizona. During this surge, mean 1000–700-hPa winds reached 12 m s−1, net surface fluxes approached zero, and the atmosphere moistened significantly but little rainfall occurred. The experiment-mean wind diurnal cycle was dominated by mainland Mexico and consisted of a near-surface westerly sea breeze along with two easterly return flows, one at 2–3 km and another at 5–6 km. Each of these altitudes experienced nighttime cloudiness. The corresponding modulation of the radiative cloud forcing diurnal cycle provided a slight positive feedback upon the sea surface temperature. Two findings were notable. One was an advective warming of over 1°C in the oceanic mixed layer temperature associated with the 13 July surge. The second was the high nighttime cloud cover fraction at 5–6 km, dissipating during the day. These clouds appeared to be thin, stratiform, slightly supercooled liquid-phase clouds. The preference for the liquid phase increases the likelihood that the clouds can be advected farther from their source and thereby contribute to a higher-altitude horizontal moisture flux into the United States.

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Timothy J. Lang, David A. Ahijevych, Stephen W. Nesbitt, Richard E. Carbone, Steven A. Rutledge, and Robert Cifelli

Abstract

A multiradar network, operated in the southern Gulf of California (GoC) region during the 2004 North American Monsoon Experiment, is used to analyze the spatial and temporal variabilities of local precipitation. Based on the initial findings of this analysis, it is found that terrain played a key role in this variability, as the diurnal cycle was dominated by convective triggering during the afternoon over the peaks and foothills of the Sierra Madre Occidental (SMO). Precipitating systems grew upscale and moved WNW toward the gulf. Distinct precipitation regimes within the monsoon are identified. The first, regime A, corresponded to enhanced precipitation over the southern portions of the coast and GoC, typically during the overnight and early morning hours. This was due to precipitating systems surviving the westward trip (∼7 m s−1; 3–4 m s−1 in excess of steering winds) from the SMO after sunset, likely because of enhanced environmental wind shear as diagnosed from local soundings. The second, regime B, corresponded to the significant northward/along-coast movement of systems (∼10 m s−1; 4–5 m s−1 in excess of steering winds) and often overlapped with regime A. The weak propagation is explainable by shallow–weak cold pools. Reanalysis data suggest that tropical easterly waves were associated with the occurrence of disturbed regimes. Gulf surges occurred during a small subset of these regimes, so they played a minor role during 2004. Mesoscale convective systems and other organized systems were responsible for most of the rainfall in this region, particularly during the disturbed regimes.

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Chunmei Zhu, Tereza Cavazos, and Dennis P. Lettenmaier

Abstract

The role of antecedent land surface conditions including precipitation (P), surface skin temperature (Ts), soil moisture (Sm), and snow water equivalent (SWE) anomalies on the onset and intensity of the monsoon during the 1950–99 period in the core of the North American monsoon system (NAMS) region in northwestern Mexico (termed MSa here) is explored. A statistically significant positive relationship is found between monsoon onset date in MSa and previous winter precipitation in the southwestern United States (SW) and northwestern (NW) Mexico, and winter SWE in the southern Rocky Mountains. The linkages are strong during the 1960s–80s and weak otherwise, which is a much shorter period than had been found previously for an SW target area termed monsoon west (MW). In the MW study, the following land surface feedback hypothesis was proposed: more winter P and SWE lead to more spring Sm, hence lower spring and early summer Ts, which induce a weaker onset of the NAMS. This hypothesis broke down in MW due to the small contribution of land surface memory to surface thermal condition, and hence to monsoon strength. The same hypothesis is in this work for MSa by examining three links. First, it is found that in May not only the total column, but also the near-surface Sm, in both SW and NW Mexico have memory from the previous winter precipitation. The spring Sm anomalies correlate negatively with Ts anomalies over most of the continental United States and Mexico except for the desert region of SW and NW Mexico. The monsoon onset is negatively correlated with May Ts over an area roughly consisting of New Mexico and some adjacent areas, suggesting that antecedent land surface conditions may influence the premonsoon surface thermal condition, which then affects monsoon onset. The monsoon-driving force concept that states that the strength of the monsoon should be related to premonsoon land–sea surface temperature contrasts is also confirmed. The confirmation of this concept shows that late monsoon years are associated with colder land and warmer adjacent ocean than early monsoon years. In addition to the apparent land surface feedback, a strong positive relationship between May Ts anomalies and the large-scale midtropospheric circulation (Z500) anomalies is found, which suggests that large-scale circulation may play a strong (possibly more important than land feedback) role in modulating the monsoon onset.

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Katrina Grantz, Balaji Rajagopalan, Martyn Clark, and Edith Zagona

Abstract

Analysis is performed on the spatiotemporal attributes of North American monsoon system (NAMS) rainfall in the southwestern United States. Trends in the timing and amount of monsoon rainfall for the period 1948–2004 are examined. The timing of the monsoon cycle is tracked by identifying the Julian day when the 10th, 25th, 50th, 75th, and 90th percentiles of the seasonal rainfall total have accumulated. Trends are assessed using the robust Spearman rank correlation analysis and the Kendall–Theil slope estimator. Principal component analysis is used to extract the dominant spatial patterns and these are correlated with antecedent land–ocean–atmosphere variables. Results show a significant delay in the beginning, peak, and closing stages of the monsoon in recent decades. The results also show a decrease in rainfall during July and a corresponding increase in rainfall during August and September. Relating these attributes of the summer rainfall to antecedent winter–spring land and ocean conditions leads to the proposal of the following hypothesis: warmer tropical Pacific sea surface temperatures (SSTs) and cooler northern Pacific SSTs in the antecedent winter–spring leads to wetter than normal conditions over the desert Southwest (and drier than normal conditions over the Pacific Northwest). This enhanced antecedent wetness delays the seasonal heating of the North American continent that is necessary to establish the monsoonal land–ocean temperature gradient. The delay in seasonal warming in turn delays the monsoon initiation, thus reducing rainfall during the typical early monsoon period (July) and increasing rainfall during the later months of the monsoon season (August and September). While the rainfall during the early monsoon appears to be most modulated by antecedent winter–spring Pacific SST patterns, the rainfall in the later part of the monsoon seems to be driven largely by the near-term SST conditions surrounding the monsoon region along the coast of California and the Gulf of California. The role of antecedent land and ocean conditions in modulating the following summer monsoon appears to be quite significant. This enhances the prospects for long-lead forecasts of monsoon rainfall over the southwestern United States, which could have significant implications for water resources planning and management in this water-scarce region.

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Myong-In Lee, Siegfried D. Schubert, Max J. Suarez, Isaac M. Held, Arun Kumar, Thomas L. Bell, Jae-Kyung E. Schemm, Ngar-Cheung Lau, Jeffrey J. Ploshay, Hyun-Kyung Kim, and Soo-Hyun Yoo

Abstract

This study examines the sensitivity of the North American warm season diurnal cycle of precipitation to changes in horizontal resolution in three atmospheric general circulation models, with a primary focus on how the parameterized moist processes respond to improved resolution of topography and associated local/regional circulations on the diurnal time scale. It is found that increasing resolution (from approximately 2° to ½° in latitude–longitude) has a mixed impact on the simulated diurnal cycle of precipitation. Higher resolution generally improves the initiation and downslope propagation of moist convection over the Rockies and the adjacent Great Plains. The propagating signals, however, do not extend beyond the slope region, thereby likely contributing to a dry bias in the Great Plains. Similar improvements in the propagating signals are also found in the diurnal cycle over the North American monsoon region as the models begin to resolve the Gulf of California and the surrounding steep terrain. In general, the phase of the diurnal cycle of precipitation improves with increasing resolution, though not always monotonically. Nevertheless, large errors in both the phase and amplitude of the diurnal cycle in precipitation remain even at the highest resolution considered here. These errors tend to be associated with unrealistically strong coupling of the convection to the surface heating and suggest that improved simulations of the diurnal cycle of precipitation require further improvements in the parameterizations of moist convection processes.

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David J. Gochis, Christopher J. Watts, Jaime Garatuza-Payan, and Julio Cesar-Rodriguez

Abstract

Detailed information on the spatial and temporal characteristics of precipitation intensity from the mountainous region of northwest Mexico has, until recently, been lacking. As part of the 2004 North American Monsoon Experiment (NAME) enhanced observing period (EOP) surface rain gauge networks along with weather radar and orbiting satellites were employed to observe precipitation in a manner heretofore unprecedented for this semiarid region. The NAME Event Rain gauge Network (NERN), which has been in operation since 2002, contributed to this effort. Building on previous work, this paper presents analyses on the spatial and temporal characteristics of precipitation intensity as observed by NERN gauges. Analyses from the 2004 EOP are compared with the 2002–04 period and with long-term gauge observations. It was found that total precipitation from July to August of 2004 was similar in spatial extent and magnitude to the long-term average, though substantially wetter than 2003. Statistical analyses of precipitation intensity data from the NERN reveal that large precipitation events at hourly and daily time scales are restricted to coastal and low-elevation areas west of the Sierra Madre Occidental. At 10-min time scales, maximum intensity values equal to those at low elevations could be observed at higher elevations though they were comparatively infrequent. It is also shown that the inclusion of NERN observations in existing operational analyses helps to correct significant biases, which, on the seasonal time scale, are of similar magnitude as the interannual variability in precipitation in key headwater regions of northwest Mexico.

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Mekonnen Gebremichael, Enrique R. Vivoni, Christopher J. Watts, and Julio C. Rodríguez

Abstract

The authors analyze information from rain gauges, geostationary infrared satellites, and low earth orbiting radar in order to describe and characterize the submesoscale (<75 km) spatial pattern and temporal dynamics of rainfall in a 50 km × 75 km study area located in Sonora, Mexico, in the periphery of the North American monsoon system core region. The temporal domain spans from 1 July to 31 August 2004, corresponding to one monsoon season. Results reveal that rainfall in the study region is characterized by high spatial and temporal variability, strong diurnal cycles in both frequency and intensity with maxima in the evening hours, and multiscaling behavior in both temporal and spatial fields. The scaling parameters of the spatial rainfall fields exhibit dependence on the rainfall rate at the synoptic scale. The rainfall intensity exhibits a slightly stronger diurnal cycle compared to the rainfall frequency, and the maximum lag time between the two diurnal peaks is within 2.4 h, with earlier peaks observed for rainfall intensity. The time of maximum cold cloud occurrence does not vary with the infrared threshold temperature used (215–235 K), while the amplitude of the diurnal cycle varies in such a way that deep convective cells have stronger diurnal cycles. Furthermore, the results indicate that the diurnal cycle of cold cloud occurrence can be used as a surrogate for some basic features of the diurnal cycle of rainfall. The spatial pattern and temporal dynamics of rainfall are modulated by topographic features and large-scale features (circulation and moisture fields as related to geographical location). As compared to valley areas, mountainous areas are characterized by an earlier diurnal peak, an earlier date of maximum precipitation, closely clustered rainy hours, frequent yet small rainfall events, and less dependence of precipitation accumulation on elevation. As compared to the northern section of the study area, the southern section is characterized by strong convective systems that peak late diurnally. The results of this study are important for understanding the physical processes involved, improving the representation of submesoscale variability in models, downscaling rainfall data from coarse meteorological models to smaller hydrological scales, and interpreting and validating remote sensing rainfall estimates.

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Wayne Higgins and David Gochis

Abstract

An international team of scientists from the United States, Mexico, and Central America carried out a major field campaign during the summer of 2004 to develop an improved understanding of the North American monsoon system leading to improved precipitation forecasts. Results from this campaign, which is the centerpiece of the North American Monsoon Experiment (NAME) Process Study, are reported in this issue of the Journal of Climate. In addition to a synthesis of key findings, this brief overview article also raises some important unresolved issues that require further attention. More detailed background information on NAME, including motivating science questions, where NAME 2004 was conducted, when, and the experimental design, was published previously by Higgins et al.

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Enrique R. Vivoni, Hugo A. Gutiérrez-Jurado, Carlos A. Aragón, Luis A. Méndez-Barroso, Alex J. Rinehart, Robert L. Wyckoff, Julio C. Rodríguez, Christopher J. Watts, John D. Bolten, Venkataraman Lakshmi, and Thomas J. Jackson

Abstract

Relatively little is currently known about the spatiotemporal variability of land surface conditions during the North American monsoon, in particular for regions of complex topography. As a result, the role played by land–atmosphere interactions in generating convective rainfall over steep terrain and sustaining monsoon conditions is still poorly understood. In this study, the variation of hydrometeorological conditions along a large-scale topographic transect in northwestern Mexico is described. The transect field experiment consisted of daily sampling at 30 sites selected to represent variations in elevation and ecosystem distribution. Simultaneous soil and atmospheric variables were measured during a 2-week period in early August 2004. Transect observations were supplemented by a network of continuous sampling sites used to analyze the regional hydrometeorological conditions prior to and during the field experiment. Results reveal the strong control exerted by topography on the spatial and temporal variability in soil moisture, with distinct landscape regions experiencing different hydrologic regimes. Reduced variations at the plot and transect scale during a drydown period indicate that homogenization of hydrologic conditions occurred over the landscape. Furthermore, atmospheric variables are clearly linked to surface conditions, indicating that heating and moistening of the boundary layer closely follow spatial and temporal changes in hydrologic properties. Land–atmosphere interactions at the basin scale (∼100 km2), obtained via a technique accounting for topographic variability, further reveal the role played by the land surface in sustaining high atmospheric moisture conditions, with implications toward rainfall generation during the North American monsoon.

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