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  • Author or Editor: Craig R. Ferguson x
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Ryann A. Wakefield, Jeffrey B. Basara, Jason C. Furtado, Bradley G. Illston, Craig. R. Ferguson, and Petra M. Klein

Abstract

Global “hot spots” for land–atmosphere coupling have been identified through various modeling studies—both local and global in scope. One hot spot that is common to many of these analyses is the U.S. southern Great Plains (SGP). In this study, we perform a mesoscale analysis, enabled by the Oklahoma Mesonet, that bridges the spatial and temporal gaps between preceding local and global analyses of coupling. We focus primarily on east–west variations in seasonal coupling in the context of interannual variability over the period spanning 2000–15. Using North American Regional Reanalysis (NARR)-derived standardized anomalies of convective triggering potential (CTP) and the low-level humidity index (HI), we investigate changes in the covariance of soil moisture and the atmospheric low-level thermodynamic profile during seasonal hydrometeorological extremes. Daily CTP and HI z scores, dependent upon climatology at individual NARR grid points, were computed and compared to in situ soil moisture observations at the nearest mesonet station to provide nearly collocated annual composites over dry and wet soils. Extreme dry and wet year CTP and HI z-score distributions are shown to deviate significantly from climatology and therefore may constitute atmospheric precursors to extreme events. The most extreme rainfall years differ from climatology but also from one another, indicating variability in the strength of land–atmosphere coupling during these years. Overall, the covariance between soil moisture and CTP/HI is much greater during drought years, and coupling appears more consistent. For example, propagation of drought during 2011 occurred under antecedent CTP and HI conditions that were identified by this study as being conducive to positive dry feedbacks demonstrating potential utility of this framework in forecasting regional drought propagation.

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