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  • Author or Editor: Siegfried D. Schubert x
  • Global Drought Information System - Drought Characterization, Occurrence, Driving Mechanisms, and Predictability Worldwide (GDIS Worldwide) x
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Siegfried D. Schubert, Hailan Wang, Randal D. Koster, Max J. Suarez, and Pavel Ya. Groisman


This article reviews the understanding of the characteristics and causes of northern Eurasian summertime heat waves and droughts. Additional insights into the nature of temperature and precipitation variability in Eurasia on monthly to decadal time scales and into the causes and predictability of the most extreme events are gained from the latest generation of reanalyses and from supplemental simulations with the NASA Goddard Earth Observing System model, version 5 (GEOS-5). Key new results are 1) the identification of the important role of summertime stationary Rossby waves in the development of the leading patterns of monthly Eurasian surface temperature and precipitation variability (including the development of extreme events such as the 2010 Russian heat wave); 2) an assessment of the mean temperature and precipitation changes that have occurred over northern Eurasia in the last three decades and their connections to decadal variability and global trends in SST; and 3) the quantification (via a case study) of the predictability of the most extreme simulated heat wave/drought events, with some focus on the role of soil moisture in the development and maintenance of such events. A literature survey indicates a general consensus that the future holds an enhanced probability of heat waves across northern Eurasia, while there is less agreement regarding future drought, reflecting a greater uncertainty in soil moisture and precipitation projections. Substantial uncertainties remain in the understanding of heat waves and drought, including the nature of the interactions between the short-term atmospheric variability associated with such extremes and the longer-term variability and trends associated with soil moisture feedbacks, SST anomalies, and an overall warming world.

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Siegfried D. Schubert, Ronald E. Stewart, Hailan Wang, Mathew Barlow, Ernesto H. Berbery, Wenju Cai, Martin P. Hoerling, Krishna K. Kanikicharla, Randal D. Koster, Bradfield Lyon, Annarita Mariotti, Carlos R. Mechoso, Omar V. Müller, Belen Rodriguez-Fonseca, Richard Seager, Sonia I. Seneviratne, Lixia Zhang, and Tianjun Zhou


Drought affects virtually every region of the world, and potential shifts in its character in a changing climate are a major concern. This article presents a synthesis of current understanding of meteorological drought, with a focus on the large-scale controls on precipitation afforded by sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies, land surface feedbacks, and radiative forcings. The synthesis is primarily based on regionally focused articles submitted to the Global Drought Information System (GDIS) collection together with new results from a suite of atmospheric general circulation model experiments intended to integrate those studies into a coherent view of drought worldwide. On interannual time scales, the preeminence of ENSO as a driver of meteorological drought throughout much of the Americas, eastern Asia, Australia, and the Maritime Continent is now well established, whereas in other regions (e.g., Europe, Africa, and India), the response to ENSO is more ephemeral or nonexistent. Northern Eurasia, central Europe, and central and eastern Canada stand out as regions with few SST-forced impacts on precipitation on interannual time scales. Decadal changes in SST appear to be a major factor in the occurrence of long-term drought, as highlighted by apparent impacts on precipitation of the late 1990s “climate shifts” in the Pacific and Atlantic SST. Key remaining research challenges include (i) better quantification of unforced and forced atmospheric variability as well as land–atmosphere feedbacks, (ii) better understanding of the physical basis for the leading modes of climate variability and their predictability, and (iii) quantification of the relative contributions of internal decadal SST variability and forced climate change to long-term drought.

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