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Kirsten L. Findell and Thomas L. Delworth


Climate model simulations run as part of the Climate Variability and Predictability (CLIVAR) Drought Working Group initiative were analyzed to determine the impact of three patterns of sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies on drought and pluvial frequency and intensity around the world. The three SST forcing patterns include a global pattern similar to the background warming trend, a pattern in the Pacific, and a pattern in the Atlantic. Five different global atmospheric models were forced by fixed SSTs to test the impact of these SST anomalies on droughts and pluvials relative to a climatologically forced control run.

The five models generally yield similar results in the locations of drought and pluvial frequency changes throughout the annual cycle in response to each given SST pattern. In all of the simulations, areas with an increase in the mean drought (pluvial) conditions tend to also show an increase in the frequency of drought (pluvial) events. Additionally, areas with more frequent extreme events also tend to show higher intensity extremes. The cold Pacific anomaly increases drought occurrence in the United States and southern South America and increases pluvials in Central America and northern and central South America. The cold Atlantic anomaly increases drought occurrence in southern Central America, northern South America, and central Africa and increases pluvials in central South America. The warm Pacific and Atlantic anomalies generally lead to reversals of the drought and pluvial increases described with the corresponding cold anomalies. More modest impacts are seen in other parts of the world. The impact of the trend pattern is generally more modest than that of the two other anomaly patterns.

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