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Wayne Higgins and David Gochis

Abstract

An international team of scientists from the United States, Mexico, and Central America carried out a major field campaign during the summer of 2004 to develop an improved understanding of the North American monsoon system leading to improved precipitation forecasts. Results from this campaign, which is the centerpiece of the North American Monsoon Experiment (NAME) Process Study, are reported in this issue of the Journal of Climate. In addition to a synthesis of key findings, this brief overview article also raises some important unresolved issues that require further attention. More detailed background information on NAME, including motivating science questions, where NAME 2004 was conducted, when, and the experimental design, was published previously by Higgins et al.

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David J. Gochis, Christopher J. Watts, Jaime Garatuza-Payan, and Julio Cesar-Rodriguez

Abstract

Detailed information on the spatial and temporal characteristics of precipitation intensity from the mountainous region of northwest Mexico has, until recently, been lacking. As part of the 2004 North American Monsoon Experiment (NAME) enhanced observing period (EOP) surface rain gauge networks along with weather radar and orbiting satellites were employed to observe precipitation in a manner heretofore unprecedented for this semiarid region. The NAME Event Rain gauge Network (NERN), which has been in operation since 2002, contributed to this effort. Building on previous work, this paper presents analyses on the spatial and temporal characteristics of precipitation intensity as observed by NERN gauges. Analyses from the 2004 EOP are compared with the 2002–04 period and with long-term gauge observations. It was found that total precipitation from July to August of 2004 was similar in spatial extent and magnitude to the long-term average, though substantially wetter than 2003. Statistical analyses of precipitation intensity data from the NERN reveal that large precipitation events at hourly and daily time scales are restricted to coastal and low-elevation areas west of the Sierra Madre Occidental. At 10-min time scales, maximum intensity values equal to those at low elevations could be observed at higher elevations though they were comparatively infrequent. It is also shown that the inclusion of NERN observations in existing operational analyses helps to correct significant biases, which, on the seasonal time scale, are of similar magnitude as the interannual variability in precipitation in key headwater regions of northwest Mexico.

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