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Laurie Agel and Mathew Barlow


Sixteen historical simulations (1950–2014) from phase 6 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP6) are compared to Northeast U.S. observed precipitation and extreme precipitation–related synoptic circulation. A set of metrics based on the regional climate is used to assess how realistically the models simulate the observed distribution and seasonality of extreme precipitation, as well as the synoptic patterns associated with extreme precipitation. These patterns are determined by k-means typing of 500-hPa geopotential heights on extreme precipitation days (top 1% of days with precipitation). The metrics are formulated to evaluate the models’ extreme precipitation spatial variations, seasonal frequency, and intensity; and for circulation, the fit to observed patterns, pattern seasonality, and pattern location of extreme precipitation. Based on the metrics, the models vary considerably in their ability to simulate different aspects of regional precipitation, and a realistic simulation of the seasonality and distribution of precipitation does not necessarily correspond to a realistic simulation of the circulation patterns (reflecting the underlying dynamics of the precipitation), and vice versa. This highlights the importance of assessing both precipitation and its associated circulation. While the models vary in their ability to reproduce observed results, in general the higher-resolution models score higher in terms of the metrics. Most models produce more frequent precipitation than that for observations, but capture the seasonality of precipitation intensity well, and capture at least several of the key characteristics of extreme precipitation–related circulation. These results do not appear to reflect a substantial improvement over a similar analysis of selected CMIP5 models.

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Mathew Barlow, Andrew Hoell, and Laurie Agel


The ability of six CMIP6 models to reproduce the observed cold season teleconnection between tropical Indo-Pacific sea surface temperatures (SSTs) and precipitation in Southwest Asia, the coastal Middle East (CME), and Northern Pakistan and India (NPI) is examined. The 1979-2014 period is analyzed, to maximize observations over both the tropical ocean and the regions. Nine historical simulations for the same period are examined for each model, to account for the internal variability of the coupled system. The teleconnection is examined in terms of SSTs, precipitation, 200 hPa geopotential heights, and derived quantities.

All the models capture some of the broadest features of the teleconnections, but there is a wide range in the ability of the models to reproduce the magnitude and details. The differences appear related to both the models’ ability to capture the details of the tropical variability, including the position and strength of the precipitation anomalies in the Indo-west Pacific, as well as the models’ ability to accurately propagate the tropically-forced response into the region. The teleconnections to the CME and NPI regions on the eastern and western margins, respectively, of the strongest signal are very similar in structure and have similar results, except that the models’ ability to reproduce the strength and details of the teleconnection is even more limited, consistent with their marginal locations and known influence of other modes of variability. For all three areas, the wide range in model ability to capture the leading teleconnection suggests caution in interpreting climate regional projections.

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Laurie Agel, Mathew Barlow, Joseph Polonia, and David Coe


Historical simulations from 14 models participating in phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) are evaluated for their ability to reproduce observed precipitation in the northeastern United States and its associated circulation, with particular emphasis on extreme (top 1%) precipitation. The models are compared to observations in terms of the spatial variations of extreme precipitation, seasonal cycles of precipitation and extreme precipitation frequency and intensity, and extreme precipitation circulation regimes. The circulation regimes are identified using k-means clustering of 500-hPa geopotential heights on extreme precipitation days, in both observations and in the models. While all models capture an observed northwest-to-southeast gradient of precipitation intensity (reflected in the top 1% threshold), there are substantial differences from observations in the magnitude of the gradient. These differences tend to be more substantial for lower-resolution models. However, regardless of resolution, and despite a bias toward too-frequent precipitation, many of the models capture the seasonality of observed daily precipitation intensity, and the approximate magnitude and seasonality of observed extreme precipitation intensity. Many of the simulated extreme precipitation circulation patterns are visually similar to the set of observed patterns. However, the location and magnitude of specific troughs and ridges within the patterns, as well as the seasonality of the patterns, may differ substantially from the observed corresponding patterns. A series of metrics is developed based on the observed regional characteristics to facilitate comparison between models.

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Christopher D. Roller, Jian-Hua Qian, Laurie Agel, Mathew Barlow, and Vincent Moron


The method of k-means cluster analysis is applied to U.S. wintertime daily 850-hPa winds across the Northeast. The resulting weather patterns are analyzed in terms of duration, station, gridded precipitation, storm tracks, and climate teleconnections. Five distinct weather patterns are identified. Weather type (WT) 1 is characterized by a ridge over the western Atlantic and positive precipitation anomalies as far north as the Great Lakes; WT2, by a trough along the eastern United States and positive precipitation anomalies into southern New England; WT3, by a trough over the western Atlantic and negative precipitation anomalies along much of the U.S. East Coast; WT4, by a trough east of Newfoundland and negative precipitation anomalies along parts of the U.S. East Coast; and WT5, by a broad, shallow trough over southeastern Canada and negative precipitation anomalies over the entire U.S. East Coast. WT5 and WT1 are the most persistent, while WT2 typically progresses quickly to WT3 and then to WT4. Based on mean station precipitation in the northeastern United States, most precipitation occurs in WT2 and WT3, with the least in WT1 and WT4. Extreme precipitation occurs most frequently in WT2. Storm tracks show that WT2 and WT3 are associated with coastal storms, while WT2 is also associated with Great Lakes storms. Teleconnections are linked with a change in WT frequency by more than a factor of 2 in several cases: for the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) in WT1 and WT4 and for the Pacific–North American (PNA) pattern in WT1 and WT3.

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