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Oliver Timm
and
Henry F. Diaz

Abstract

A linear statistical downscaling technique is applied to the projection of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) climate change scenarios onto Hawaiian rainfall for the late twenty-first century. Hawaii’s regional rainfall is largely controlled by the strength of the trade winds. During the winter months, disturbances in the westerlies can produce heavy rainfall throughout the islands. A diagnostic analysis of sea level pressure (SLP), near-surface winds, and rainfall measurements at 134 weather observing stations around the islands characterize the correlations between the circulation and rainfall during the nominal wet season (November–April) and dry season (May–October). A comparison of the base climate twentieth-century AR4 model simulations with reanalysis data for the period 1970–2000 is used to define objective selection criterion for the AR4 models. Six out of 21 available models were chosen for the statistical downscaling. These were chosen on the basis of their ability to more realistically simulate the modern large-scale circulation fields in the Hawaiian Islands region.

For the AR4 A1B emission scenario, the six analyzed models show important changes in the wind fields around Hawaii by the late twenty-first century. Two models clearly indicate opposite signs in the anomalies. One model projects 20%–30% rainfall increase over the islands; the other model suggests a rainfall decrease of about 10%–20% during the wet season. It is concluded from the six-model ensemble that the most likely scenario for Hawaii is a 5%–10% reduction of the wet-season precipitation and a 5% increase during the dry season, as a result of changes in the wind field. The authors discuss the sources of uncertainties in the projected rainfall changes and consider future improvements of the statistical downscaling work and implications for dynamical downscaling methods.

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George N. Kiladis
and
Henry F. Diaz

Abstract

Composite temperature and precipitation anomalies during various stages of an event in the Southern Oscillation (SO) have been computed for several hundred stations across the globe. Large regions of coherent, significant signals are shown to exist for both extremes of the SO, with warm event signals generally opposite to those during cold events. In addition, during the year preceding the development of an event in the SO (year −1), climatic anomalies tend to be opposite to those during the following year (year 0). This confirms that the biennial tendency of the SO over the Pacific/Indian ocean sectors is also present in more remote regions with climatic signals related to the SO. Many of the signals are consistent enough from event to event to be useful for extended range forecasting purposes.

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Henry F. Diaz
and
Eugene R. Wahl

Abstract

An analysis of the October 2013–September 2014 precipitation in the western United States and in particular over the California–Nevada region suggests this anomalously dry season, while extreme, is not unprecedented in comparison with the approximately 120-yr-long instrumental record of water year (WY; October–September) totals and in comparison with a 407-yr WY precipitation reconstruction dating back to 1571. Over this longer period, nine other years are known or estimated to have been nearly as dry or drier than WY 2014. The 3-yr deficit for WYs 2012–14, which in California exceeded the annual mean precipitation, is more extreme but also not unprecedented, occurring three other times over the past approximate 440 years in the reconstruction. WY precipitation has also been deficient on average for the past 14 years, and such a run of predominantly dry WYs is also a rare occurrence in the authors’ merged reconstructed plus instrumental period record.

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Thomas R. Karl
,
Henry F. Diaz
, and
George Kukla

Abstract

Several equations were developed that related the effect of urban growth, measured by increasing population, to the mean seasonal and annual temperature: the diurnal maximum, minimum, average, and range. These equations were derived from a network of 1219 stations across the United States, which were analyzed for the years 1901–84. The results indicate that urban effects on temperature are detectable even for small towns with populations under 10 000. Stations with populations near 10 000 are shown to average 0.1°C warmer for the mean annual temperature than nearby stations located in rural areas with populations less than 2000. Urbanization decreases the daily maxima in all seasons except winter and the temperature range in all seasons. It increases the diurnal minima and the daily means in all seasons.

The equations indicate that, for the annual mean temperature, urbanization during the twentieth century accounts for a warm bias of about 0.06°C in the U.S. Historical Climatology Network (HCN). Due to the large number of stations located in sparsely populated arms [(over 85% (70%) of all stations had a 1980 population of less than 25 000 (10 000)], the impact of urbanization is not large in relation to decadal changes of temperature in the United States. The average heat island impact during the period 1901–84 for the HCN is largest for the daily minima (0.13°C) and the temperature range (−0.14°C), while the impact on the daily maxima (−0.01°C) is an order of magnitude smaller.

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Ryan J. Longman
,
Henry F. Diaz
, and
Thomas W. Giambelluca

Abstract

Consistent increases in the strength and frequency of occurrence of the trade wind inversion (TWI) are identified across a ~40-yr period (1973–2013) in Hawaii. Changepoint analysis indicates that a marked shift occurred in the early 1990s resulting in a 20% increase in the mean TWI frequency between the periods 1973–90 and 1991–2013, based on the average of changes at two sounding stations and two 6-month (dry and wet) seasons. Regional increases in the atmospheric subsidence are identified in four reanalysis datasets over the same ~40-yr time period. The post-1990 period mean for the NCEP–NCAR reanalysis shows increases in subsidence of 33% and 41% for the dry and wet seasons, respectively. Good agreement was found between the time series of TWI frequency of occurrence and omega, suggesting that previously reported increases in the intensity of Hadley cell subsidence are driving the observed increases in TWI frequency. Correlations between omega and large-scale modes of internal climate variability such as El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO) do not explain the abrupt shift in TWI frequency in the early 1990s in both seasons. Reported increases in TWI frequency of occurrence may provide some explanation for climate change–related precipitation change at high elevations in Hawaii. On average, post-1990 rainfall was 6% lower in the dry season and 31% lower in the wet season at nine high-elevation sites. Rainfall was significantly correlated with TWI frequency at all of the stations analyzed.

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Michael D. Dettinger
,
Daniel R. Cayan
,
Henry F. Diaz
, and
David M. Meko

Abstract

The overall amount of precipitation deposited along the West Coast and western cordillera of North America from 25° to 55°N varies from year to year, and superimposed on this domain-average variability are varying north–south contrasts on timescales from at least interannual to interdecadal. In order to better understand the north–south precipitation contrasts, their interannual and decadal variations are studied in terms of how much they affect overall precipitation amounts and how they are related to large-scale climatic patterns. Spatial empirical orthogonal functions (EOFs) and spatial moments (domain average, central latitude, and latitudinal spread) of zonally averaged precipitation anomalies along the westernmost parts of North America are analyzed, and each is correlated with global sea level pressure (SLP) and sea surface temperature series, on interannual (defined here as 3–7 yr) and decadal (>7 yr) timescales. The interannual band considered here corresponds to timescales that are particularly strong in tropical climate variations and thus is expected to contain much precipitation variability that is related to El Niño–Southern Oscillation; the decadal scale is defined so as to capture the whole range of long-term climatic variations affecting western North America.

Zonal EOFs of the interannual and decadal filtered versions of the zonal-precipitation series are remarkably similar. At both timescales, two leading EOFs describe 1) a north–south seesaw of precipitation pivoting near 40°N and 2) variations in precipitation near 40°N, respectively. The amount of overall precipitation variability is only about 10% of the mean and is largely determined by precipitation variations around 40°–45°N and most consistently influenced by nearby circulation patterns; in this sense, domain-average precipitation is closely related to the second EOF. The central latitude and latitudinal spread of precipitation distributions are strongly influenced by precipitation variations in the southern parts of western North America and are closely related to the first EOF. Central latitude of precipitation moves south (north) with tropical warming (cooling) in association with midlatitude western Pacific SLP variations, on both interannual and decadal timescales. Regional patterns and zonal averages of precipitation-sensitive tree-ring series are used to corroborate these patterns and to extend them into the past and appear to share much long- and short-term information with the instrumentally based zonal precipitation EOFs and moments.

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Daniel R. Cayan
,
Michael D. Dettinger
,
Henry F. Diaz
, and
Nicholas E. Graham

Abstract

Decadal (>7- yr period) variations of precipitation over western North America account for 20%–50% of the variance of annual precipitation. Spatially, the decadal variability is broken into several regional [O(1000 km)] components. These decadal variations are contributed by fluctuations in precipitation from seasons of the year that vary from region to region and that are not necessarily concentrated in the wettest season(s) alone. The precipitation variations are linked to various decadal atmospheric circulation and SST anomaly patterns where scales range from regional to global scales and that emphasize tropical or extratropical connections, depending upon which precipitation region is considered. Further, wet or dry decades are associated with changes in frequency of at least a few short-period circulation “modes” such as the Pacific–North American pattern. Precipitation fluctuations over the southwestern United States and the Saskatchewan region of western Canada are associated with extensive shifts of sea level pressure and SST anomalies, suggesting that they are components of low-frequency precipitation variability from global-scale climate processes. Consistent with the global scale of its pressure and SST connection, the Southwest decadal precipitation is aligned with opposing precipitation fluctuations in northern Africa.

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Xiao-Wei Quan
,
Martin P. Hoerling
,
Judith Perlwitz
,
Henry F. Diaz
, and
Taiyi Xu

Abstract

Diagnosing the sensitivity of the tropical belt provides one framework for understanding how global precipitation patterns may change in a warming world. This paper seeks to understand boreal winter rates of subtropical dry zone expansion since 1979, and explores physical mechanisms. Various reanalysis estimates based on the latitude where zonal mean precipitation P exceeds evaporation E and the zero crossing latitude for the zonal mean meridional streamfunction ( ) yield tropical width expansion rates in each hemisphere ranging from near zero to over 1° latitude decade−1. Comparisons with 30-yr trends computed from unforced climate model simulations indicate that the range among reanalyses is nearly an order of magnitude greater than the standard deviation of internal climate variability. Furthermore, comparisons with forced climate models indicate that this range is an order of magnitude greater than the forced change signal since 1979. Rapid widening rates during 1979–2009 derived from some reanalyses are thus viewed to be unreliable.

The intercomparison of models and reanalyses supports the prevailing view of a tropical widening, but the forced component of tropical widening has likely been only about 0.1°–0.2° latitude decade−1, considerably less than has generally been assumed based on inferences drawn from observations and reanalyses. Climate model diagnosis indicates that the principal mechanism for forced tropical widening since 1979 has been atmospheric sensitivity to warming oceans. The magnitude of this widening and its potential detectability has been greater in the Southern Hemisphere than in the Northern Hemisphere during boreal winter, in part owing to Antarctic stratospheric ozone depletion.

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Xiao-Wei Quan
,
Martin P. Hoerling
,
Judith Perlwitz
, and
Henry F. Diaz

Abstract

The tropical belt is expected to expand in response to global warming, although most of the observed tropical widening since 1980, especially in the Northern Hemisphere, is believed to have mainly originated from natural variability. The view is of a small global warming signal relative to natural variability. Here we focus on the question whether and, if so when, the anthropogenic signal of tropical widening will become detectable. Analysis of two large ensemble climate simulations reveals that the forced signal of tropical width is strongly constrained by the forced signal of global mean temperature. Under a representative concentration pathway 8.5 (RCP8.5) emissions scenario, the aggregate of the two models indicates a regression of about 0.5° lat °C−1 during 1980–2080. The models also reveal that interannual variability in tropical width, a measure of noise used herein, is insensitive to global warming. Reanalysis data are therefore used to constrain the interannual variability, whose magnitude is estimated to be 1.1° latitude. Defining the time of emergence (ToE) for tropical width change as the first year (post-1980) when the forced signal exceeds the magnitude of interannual variability, the multimodel simulations of CMIP5 are used to estimate ToE and its confidence interval. The aforementioned strong constraint between the signal of tropical width change and global mean temperature change motivates using CMIP5-simulated global mean temperature changes to infer ToE. Our best estimate for the probable year for ToE, under an RCP8.5 emissions scenario, is 2058 with 10th–90th percentile confidence of 2047–68. Various sources of uncertainty in estimating the ToE are discussed.

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Martin Hoerling
,
Lesley Smith
,
Xiao-Wei Quan
,
Jon Eischeid
,
Joseph Barsugli
, and
Henry F. Diaz

Abstract

Observed United States trends in the annual maximum 1-day precipitation (RX1day) over the last century consist of 15%–25% increases over the eastern United States (East) and 10% decreases over the far western United States (West). This heterogeneous trend pattern departs from comparatively uniform observed increases in precipitable water over the contiguous United States. Here we use an event attribution framework involving parallel sets of global atmospheric model experiments with and without climate change drivers to explain this spatially diverse pattern of extreme daily precipitation trends. We find that RX1day events in our model ensembles respond to observed historical climate change forcing differently across the United States with 5%–10% intensity increases over the East but no appreciable change over the West. This spatially diverse forced signal is broadly similar among three models used, and is positively correlated with the observed trend pattern. Our analysis of model and observations indicates the lack of appreciable RX1day signals over the West is likely due to dynamical effects of climate change forcing—via a wintertime atmospheric circulation anomaly that suppresses vertical motion over the West—largely cancelling thermodynamic effects of increased water vapor availability. The large magnitude of eastern U.S. RX1day increases is unlikely a symptom of a regional heightened sensitivity to climate change forcing. Instead, our ensemble simulations reveal considerable variability in RX1day trend magnitudes arising from internal atmospheric processes alone, and we argue that the remarkable observed increases over the East has most likely resulted from a superposition of strong internal variability with a moderate climate change signal. Implications for future changes in U.S. extreme daily precipitation are discussed.

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