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D. Alex Burrows
,
Craig R. Ferguson
,
Matthew A. Campbell
,
Geng Xia
, and
Lance F. Bosart

Abstract

Low-level jets (LLJ) around the world critically support the food, water, and energy security in regions that they traverse. For the purposes of development planning and weather and climate prediction, it is important to improve understanding of how LLJs interact with the land surface and upper-atmospheric flow, and collectively, how LLJs have and may change over time. This study details the development and application of a new automated, dynamical objective classification of upper-atmospheric jet stream coupling based on a merging of the Bonner–Whiteman vertical wind shear classification and the finite-amplitude local wave activity diagnostic. The classification approach is transferable globally, but applied here only for the Great Plains (GP) LLJ (GPLLJ). The analysis spans the period from 1901 to 2010, enabled by the ECMWF climate-quality, coupled Earth reanalysis of the twentieth century. Overall, statistically significant declines in total GPLLJ event frequency over the twentieth century are detected across the entire GP corridor and attributed to declines in uncoupled GPLLJ frequency. Composites of lower- and upper-atmospheric flow are shown to capture major differences in the climatological, coupled GPLLJ, and uncoupled GPLLJ synoptic environments. Detailed analyses for southern, central, and northern GP subregions further highlight synoptic differences between weak and strong GPLLJs and provide quantification of correlations between total, coupled, and uncoupled GPLLJ frequencies and relevant atmospheric anomalies. Because uncoupled GPLLJs tend to be associated with decreased precipitation and low-level wind speed and enhanced U.S. ridge strength, this finding may suggest that support for drought over the twentieth century has waned.

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