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Inmaculada Vega
,
David Gallego
,
Pedro Ribera
,
F. de Paula Gómez-Delgado
,
Ricardo García-Herrera
, and
Cristina Peña-Ortiz

Abstract

A new index, the western North Pacific directional index (WNPDI), based on historical wind direction observations taken aboard sailing ships, has been developed to characterize the western North Pacific summer monsoon (WNPSM) since 1898. The WNPDI measures the persistence of the surface westerly winds in the region 5°–15°N, 100°–130°E and easterly winds in the region 20°–30°N, 110°–140°E, exhibiting a consistent relationship with the summer precipitation in the areas affected by the WNPSM throughout the entire twentieth century. Its length doubles that of the previous WNPSM index (1948–2014) based on reanalysis products, which allows uncovering different relevant features of the WNPSM variability. The WNPSM had a significant interdecadal variability throughout the twentieth century. In particular, the period 1918–48 was characterized by less variable and stronger monsoons than in recent decades. Additionally, the relationship between the WNPSM and ENSO or El Niño Modoki has been evaluated during the entire twentieth century for the first time. It is confirmed that the WNPSM tends to be strong (weak) when El Niño (La Niña) develops during the whole record. Nevertheless, the relationship during the ENSO-decaying phase is not stable in time. Thus, the WNPSM tended to be strong (weak) when La Niña (El Niño) decayed only since the late 1950s, with an opposite relationship in the earliest part of the record. El Niño Modoki shows a rather stable and high correlation with the WNPDI during the whole study period throughout the twentieth century.

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M. Cruz Gallego
,
Fernando Domínguez-Castro
,
José M. Vaquero
, and
Ricardo García-Herrera

Abstract

Some of the first systematic meteorological observations in Africa were made by two women in Equatorial Guinea in 1875. Sisters Isabel and Juliana Urquiola, together with Manuel Iradier, Isabel's husband, built a meteorological observatory on Little Elobey Island (0°59′46″N, 9°32′14″E), off the tiny nation's western coast. From 1 June to 31 December 1875, the sisters took subdaily readings (6, 12, 15, and 18 h past midnight local time) of humidity, temperature, precipitation, and wind direction and speed. To evaluate the quality of these historical observations, the authors have compared them with equivalent modern meteorological data from Cocobeach (the modern meteorological station nearest to Little Elobey). The monthly-mean distributions of maximum and minimum temperature are similar to those of Cocobeach, but minimum temperatures are 2.4°C higher than Cocobeach values. Despite this difference, the observations of the Urquiola sisters were found to be far better and more consistent than other observations of the time. Sadly, the duo never enjoyed an appropriate acknowledgment of their detailed weather measurements, some taken eight times per day, which were some of the first measurements in Equatorial Guinea. Their unappreciated task unfortunately also had a high cost on their health for the rest of their lives, made all the worse for Isabel Urquiola with the loss of a baby.

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Cary J. Mock
,
Michael Chenoweth
,
Isabel Altamirano
,
Matthew D. Rodgers
, and
Ricardo García-Herrera

Major hurricanes are prominent meteorological hazards of the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf coasts. However, the official modern record of Atlantic basin tropical cyclones starts at 1851, and it does not provide a comprehensive measure of the frequency and magnitude of major hurricanes. Vast amounts of documentary weather data extend back several centuries, but many of these have not yet been fully utilized for hurricane reconstruction. These sources include weather diaries, ship logbooks, ship protests, and newspapers from American, British, and Spanish archives. A coordinated effort, utilizing these historical sources, has reconstructed a major hurricane in August 1812, which is the closest to ever pass by New Orleans, Louisiana, including Hurricane Katrina. The storm became a tropical depression in the Caribbean Sea, passed south of Jamaica as a tropical storm, and then strengthened to hurricane strength in the Gulf of Mexico. It made landfall about 65 km southeast of New Orleans and passed just to the west of the city. Historical storm surge and damage reports indicate it as a major hurricane at landfall. Given that conditions during 1812 include having lower sea level, higher land elevation prior to human-induced subsidence, and more extensive wetlands, a recurrence of such a major hurricane would likely have a greater detrimental societal impact than that of Hurricane Katrina. The 1812 hurricane study provides an example of how historical data can be utilized to reconstruct past hurricanes in a manner that renders them directly comparable with those within our modern record.

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Ricardo García Herrera
,
Rolando R. García
,
M. Rosario Prieto
,
Emiliano Hernández
,
Luis Gimeno
, and
Henry F. Díaz

Spanish historical archives contain a vast store of information about Spain and its former colonies in America and Asia. Some searches for climate-related information within these archives have been undertaken recently, but they have been by no means exhaustive. This paper discusses the principal archives and shows, by means of several examples, that they exhibit a high potential for inferring past climate over a wide range of timescales and geographical areas. Extraction of such information is often time consuming, and requires a combination of archival, historical, and climatological expertise, and the development of individualized methodologies to fit each situation and type of data. In spite of these difficulties, the archives can be particularly useful in many cases where there are no alternative sources of climate data. Thus, the complexities of the multidisciplinary effort required should not discourage other researchers from undertaking similar studies.

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Natalia Calvo Fernández
,
Ricardo GarcÍa Herrera
,
David Gallego Puyol
,
Emiliano Hernández MartÍn
,
Rolando R. GarcÍa
,
Luis Gimeno Presa
, and
Pedro Ribera RodrÍguez

Abstract

The El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) signal in the troposphere and lower stratosphere was investigated using Microwave Sounding Unit (MSU) data for the period 1979–2000. Empirical orthogonal functions (EOFs) were computed separately for zonal-mean and eddy temperatures in the Tropics and shown to provide a compact, physically intuitive description of ENSO that captures many of the details of its inception and evolution. Regressions of the MSU data on the principal components (PCs) of the tropical EOFs were then used to estimate the global signal of ENSO. The results show that ENSO accounts for over two-thirds of the temperature variability in the tropical troposphere, where its signature is composed of distinct zonal-mean and eddy patterns whose evolution is not simultaneous. In the tropical stratosphere, and outside the Tropics, ENSO explains a much smaller fraction of the variance (∼10%), and manifests itself purely in the form of eddy anomaly patterns. The PCs of the eddy EOFs of the tropical stratosphere are almost perfectly correlated with those of the troposphere, suggesting that together the EOFs describe the vertical structure of equatorial waves. Volcanic eruptions and the quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO) are responsible for most of the variability (∼87%) of the tropical lower stratosphere, and this variability is uncorrelated with ENSO; in the tropical troposphere, the effect of volcanic eruptions is detectable but small, accounting for about 3% of the variance.

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Ricardo García-Herrera
,
Emiliano Hernández
,
David Barriopedro
,
Daniel Paredes
,
Ricardo M. Trigo
,
Isabel Franco Trigo
, and
Manuel A. Mendes

Abstract

The 2004/05 hydrological year (October 2004 to September 2005) was characterized by intense dry conditions affecting most of western Europe (35°–55°N and 10°W–10°E). In Iberia the drought affected every month of this period, with the southern half of Iberia receiving roughly 40% of the usual precipitation by June 2005. Moreover, this episode stands as the driest event in the last 140 yr, producing major socioeconomic impacts particularly due to the large decrease in hydroelectricity and agricultural production in both Iberian countries (Portugal and Spain).

To assess the atmospheric submonthly circulation associated with this drought an Eulerian [weather types (WTs)] and a Lagrangean (objective storm tracks) analysis were combined. There was a dramatic drop in “wet” WT frequency during winter, with less than 50% of the normal value, and a corresponding increase of “dry” WTs. The storm-track analysis reveals an impressive northward displacement of cyclone trajectories in the North Atlantic sector in winter months, resulting in an almost complete absence of cyclones crossing Iberia and western Europe.

At the monthly scale, the intense drought in Iberia was due to a combination of different physical mechanisms. First, the scarce precipitation observed between November 2004 and January 2005 was associated with positive North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) indexes for these months. In February, the East Atlantic (EA) pattern seems to be the main driver. In March neither the negative NAO (−1.8) nor the positive EA (1.1) are capable of explaining the large negative precipitation anomalies. However, it is shown that during March 2005, an intense and anomalous blocking was displaced southward of its usual location, inhibiting the occurrence of precipitation over Iberia and leading to a negative NAO index anomalously associated with low precipitation records.

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Raquel Nieto
,
Luis Gimeno
,
Laura de la Torre
,
Pedro Ribera
,
David Gallego
,
Ricardo García-Herrera
,
José Agustín García
,
Marcelino Nuñez
,
Angel Redaño
, and
Jerónimo Lorente

Abstract

This study presents the first multidecadal climatology of cutoff low systems in the Northern Hemisphere. The climatology was constructed by using 41 yr (1958–98) of NCEP–NCAR reanalysis data and identifying cutoff lows by means of an objective method based on imposing the three main physical characteristics of the conceptual model of cutoff low (the 200-hPa geopotential minimum, cutoff circulation, and the specific structure of both equivalent thickness and thermal front parameter fields).

Several results were confirmed and climatologically validated: 1) the existence of three preferred areas of cutoff low occurrence (the first one extends through southern Europe and the eastern Atlantic coast, the second one is the eastern North Pacific, and the third one is the northern China–Siberian region extending to the northwestern Pacific coast; the European area is the most favored region); 2) the known seasonal cycle, with cutoff lows forming much more frequently in summer than in winter; 3) the short lifetime of cutoff lows, most cutoff lows lasted 2–3 days and very few lasted more than 5 days; and 4) the mobility of the system, with few cutoff lows being stationary. Furthermore, the long study period has made it possible (i) to find a bimodal distribution in the geographical density of cutoff lows for the European sector in all the seasons (with the exception of winter), a summer displacement to the ocean in the American region, and a summer extension to the continent in the Asian region, and (ii) to detect northward and westward motion especially in the transitions from the second to third day of occurrence and from the third to fourth day of occurrence.

The long-term cutoff low database built in this study is appropriate to study the interannual variability of cutoff low occurrence and the links between cutoff lows and jet stream systems, blocking, or major modes of climate variability as well as the global importance of cutoff low in the stratosphere–troposphere exchange mechanism, which will be the focus of a subsequent paper.

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Rolando R. Garcia
,
Henry F. Díaz
,
Ricardo García Herrera
,
Jon Eischeid
,
María del Rosario Prieto
,
Emiliano Hernández
,
Luis Gimeno
,
Francisco Rubio Durán
, and
Ana María Bascary

Historical accounts of the voyages of the Manila galleons derived from the Archivo General de Indias (General Archive of the Indies, Seville, Spain) are used to infer past changes in the atmospheric circulation of the tropical Pacific Ocean. It is shown that the length of the voyage between Acapulco, Mexico, and the Philippine Islands during the period 1590–1750 exhibits large secular trends, such that voyages in the middle of the seventeenth century are some 40% longer than those at the beginning or at the end of the century, and that these trends are unlikely to have been caused by societal or technological factors. Analysis of a series of “virtual voyages,” constructed from modern wind data, indicates that sailing time to the Philippines depended critically on the strength of the trade winds and the position of the western Pacific monsoon trough. These results suggest that the atmospheric circulation of the western Pacific underwent large, multidecadal fluctuations during the seventeenth century.

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Jacob W. Maddison
,
Marta Abalos
,
David Barriopedro
,
Ricardo García-Herrera
,
Jose M. Garrido-Perez
,
Carlos Ordóñez
, and
Isla R. Simpson

Abstract

Air pollution is a major environmental threat to human health. Pollutants can reach extreme levels in the lower atmosphere when weather conditions permit. As pollutant concentrations depend on scales and processes that are not fully represented in current global circulation models (GCMs), and it is often too computationally expensive to run models with atmospheric chemistry and aerosol processes, air stagnation is often used as a proxy for pollution events with particular success in Europe. However, the variables required to identify air stagnation can have biases in GCM output, which adds uncertainty to projected trends in air stagnation. Here, the representation of air stagnation in GCMs is assessed for Europe in the historical period and in end-of-century projections based on a high-emission scenario using three methods for identifying air stagnation. The monthly frequency of stagnation during summer and autumn is projected to increase with climate change when stagnation is identified by a well-established index. However, this increase is not present when air-stagnation frequency is estimated using a statistical model based on the synoptic- to large-scale atmospheric circulation. This implies that the projected increases in air stagnation are not driven by an increase in frequency or severity of large-scale circulation events that are conducive to stagnation. Indeed, projected changes to the atmospheric circulation in GCMs, in particular a reduction in atmospheric block frequency, would suggest a reduction in future air stagnation. Additional analyses indicate that the projected increases in stagnation frequency follow the trend toward more frequent dry days, which is apparently unrelated to the large-scale drivers of air stagnation.

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Ricardo García-Herrera
,
Jose M. Garrido-Perez
,
David Barriopedro
,
Carlos Ordóñez
,
Sergio M. Vicente-Serrano
,
Raquel Nieto
,
Luis Gimeno
,
Rogert Sorí
, and
Pascal Yiou

Abstract

We have analyzed the record-breaking drought that affected western and central Europe from July 2016 to June 2017. It caused widespread impacts on water supplies, agriculture, and hydroelectric power production, and was associated with forest fires in Iberia. Unlike common continental-scale droughts, this event displayed a highly unusual spatial pattern affecting both northern and southern European regions. Drought conditions were observed over 90% of central-western Europe, hitting record-breaking values (with respect to 1979–2017) in 25% of the area. Therefore, the event can be considered as the most severe European drought at the continental scale since at least 1979. The main dynamical forcing of the drought was the consecutive occurrence of blocking and subtropical ridges, sometimes displaced from their typical locations. This led to latitudinal shifts of the jet stream and record-breaking positive geopotential height anomalies over most of the continent. The reduction in moisture transport from the Atlantic was relevant in the northern part of the region, where decreased precipitation and increased sunshine duration were the main contributors to the drought. On the other hand, thermodynamic processes, mostly associated with high temperatures and the resulting increase in atmospheric evaporative demand, were more important in the south. Finally, using flow circulation analogs we show that this drought was more severe than it would have been in the early past.

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