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  • Author or Editor: Kingtse C. Mo x
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Kingtse C. Mo
Jae-Kyung E. Schemm
, and
Soo-Hyun Yoo


Composites based on observations and model outputs from the Climate Variability and Predictability (CLIVAR) drought experiments were used to examine the impact of El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Atlantic multidecadal oscillation (AMO) on drought over the United States. Because drought implies persistent dryness, the 6-month standardized precipitation index, standardized runoff index, and soil moisture anomalies are used to represent drought. The experiments were performed by forcing an AGCM with prescribed sea surface temperature anomalies (SSTAs) superimposed on the monthly mean SST climatology. Four model outputs from the NCEP Global Forecast System (GFS), NASA’s Seasonal-to-Interannual Prediction Project, version 1 (NSIPP1), GFDL’s global atmospheric model, version 2.1 (AM2.1), and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO)/NCAR Community Climate System Model, version 3 (CCM3) were analyzed in this study. Each run lasts from 36 to 51 yr.

The impact of ENSO on drought over the United States is concentrated over the Southwest, the Great Plains, and the lower Colorado River basin, with cold (warm) ENSO events favoring drought (wet spells). Over the East Coast and the Southeast, the impact of ENSO is small because the precipitation responses to ENSO are opposite in sign for winter and summer. For these areas, a prolonged ENSO does not always favor either drought or wet spells.

The direct influence of the AMO on drought is small. The major influence of the AMO is to modulate the impact of ENSO on drought. The influence is large when the SSTAs in the tropical Pacific and in the North Atlantic are opposite in phase. A cold (warm) event in a positive (negative) AMO phase amplifies the impact of the cold (warm) ENSO on drought. The ENSO influence on drought is much weaker when the SSTAs in the tropical Pacific and in the North Atlantic are in phase.

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