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  • Author or Editor: Sumant Nigam x
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Alfredo Ruiz-Barradas
and
Sumant Nigam

Abstract

The present study assesses the potential of the U.S. Climate Variability and Predictability (CLIVAR) Drought Working Group (DWG) models in simulating interannual precipitation variability over North America, especially the Great Plains. It also provides targets for the idealized DWG model experiments investigating drought origin. The century-long Atmospheric Model Intercomparison Project (AMIP) simulations produced by version 3.5 of NCAR’s Community Atmosphere Model (CAM3.5), the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory’s Community Climate Model (CCM3), and NASA’s Seasonal-to-Interannual Prediction Project (NSIPP-1) atmospheric models are analyzed; CCM3 and NSIPP-1 models have 16- and 14-ensemble simulations, respectively, while CAM3.5 only has 1.

The standard deviation of summer precipitation is different in AMIP simulations. The maximum over the central United States seen in observations is placed farther to the west in simulations. Over the central plains the models exhibit modest skill in simulating low-frequency precipitation variability, a Palmer drought severity index proxy. The presence of a linear trend increases correlations in the period 1950–99 when compared with those for the whole century. The SST links of the Great Plains drought index have features in common with observations over both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.

Interestingly, summer-to-fall precipitation regressions of the warm Trend, cold Pacific, and warm Atlantic modes of annual mean SST variability (used in forcing the DWG idealized model experiments) tend to dry the southwestern, midwestern, and southeastern regions of the United States in the observations and, to a lesser extent, in the simulations.

The similarity of the idealized SST-forced droughts in DWG modeling experiments with AMIP precipitation regressions of the corresponding SST principal components, evident especially in the case of the cold Pacific pattern, suggests that the routinely conducted AMIP simulations could have served as an effective proxy for the more elaborated suite of DWG modeling experiments.

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Alfredo Ruiz-Barradas
and
Sumant Nigam

Abstract

The present work assesses spring and summer precipitation over North America as well as summer precipitation variability over the central United States and its SST links in simulations of the twentieth-century climate and projections of the twenty-first- and twenty-second-century climates for the A1B scenario.

The observed spatial structure of spring and summer precipitation poses a challenge for models, particularly over the western and central United States. Tendencies in spring precipitation in the twenty-first century agree with the observed ones at the end of the twentieth century over a wetter north-central and a drier southwestern United States, and a drier southeastern Mexico. Projected wetter springs over the Great Plains in the twenty-first and twenty-second centuries are associated with an increase in the number of extreme springs. In contrast, projected summer tendencies have demonstrated little consistency. The associated observed changes in SSTs bear the global warming footprint, which is not well captured in the twentieth-century climate simulations.

Precipitation variability over the Great Plains presents a coherent picture in spring but not in summer. Models project an increase in springtime precipitation variability owing to an increased number of extreme springs. The number of extreme droughty (pluvial) events during the spring–fall part of the year is under(over)estimated in the twentieth century without consistent projections.

Summer precipitation variability over the Great Plains is linked to SSTs over the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, with no apparent ENSO link in spite of the exaggerated variability in the equatorial Pacific in climate simulations; this has been identified already in observations and atmospheric models forced with historical SSTs. This link is concealed due to the increased warming in the twenty-first century. Deficiencies in land surface–atmosphere interactions and global teleconnections in the climate models prevent them from a better portrayal of summer precipitation variability in the central United States.

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Siegfried Schubert
,
David Gutzler
,
Hailan Wang
,
Aiguo Dai
,
Tom Delworth
,
Clara Deser
,
Kirsten Findell
,
Rong Fu
,
Wayne Higgins
,
Martin Hoerling
,
Ben Kirtman
,
Randal Koster
,
Arun Kumar
,
David Legler
,
Dennis Lettenmaier
,
Bradfield Lyon
,
Victor Magana
,
Kingtse Mo
,
Sumant Nigam
,
Philip Pegion
,
Adam Phillips
,
Roger Pulwarty
,
David Rind
,
Alfredo Ruiz-Barradas
,
Jae Schemm
,
Richard Seager
,
Ronald Stewart
,
Max Suarez
,
Jozef Syktus
,
Mingfang Ting
,
Chunzai Wang
,
Scott Weaver
, and
Ning Zeng

Abstract

The U.S. Climate Variability and Predictability (CLIVAR) working group on drought recently initiated a series of global climate model simulations forced with idealized SST anomaly patterns, designed to address a number of uncertainties regarding the impact of SST forcing and the role of land–atmosphere feedbacks on regional drought. The runs were carried out with five different atmospheric general circulation models (AGCMs) and one coupled atmosphere–ocean model in which the model was continuously nudged to the imposed SST forcing. This paper provides an overview of the experiments and some initial results focusing on the responses to the leading patterns of annual mean SST variability consisting of a Pacific El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO)-like pattern, a pattern that resembles the Atlantic multidecadal oscillation (AMO), and a global trend pattern.

One of the key findings is that all of the AGCMs produce broadly similar (though different in detail) precipitation responses to the Pacific forcing pattern, with a cold Pacific leading to reduced precipitation and a warm Pacific leading to enhanced precipitation over most of the United States. While the response to the Atlantic pattern is less robust, there is general agreement among the models that the largest precipitation response over the United States tends to occur when the two oceans have anomalies of opposite signs. Further highlights of the response over the United States to the Pacific forcing include precipitation signal-to-noise ratios that peak in spring, and surface temperature signal-to-noise ratios that are both lower and show less agreement among the models than those found for the precipitation response. The response to the positive SST trend forcing pattern is an overall surface warming over the world’s land areas, with substantial regional variations that are in part reproduced in runs forced with a globally uniform SST trend forcing. The precipitation response to the trend forcing is weak in all of the models.

It is hoped that these early results, as well as those reported in the other contributions to this special issue on drought, will serve to stimulate further analysis of these simulations, as well as suggest new research on the physical mechanisms contributing to hydroclimatic variability and change throughout the world.

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