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Amin Dezfuli
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Amin Dezfuli

Abstract

Atmospheric rivers (ARs) are responsible for some of the hydroclimatic extremes around the world. Their mechanisms and contribution to flooding in the Middle East are relatively poorly understood. This study shows that the record floods during March 2019 across the Middle East were caused by a powerful AR, originated from the North Atlantic Ocean. Iran, in particular, was substantially affected by the floods. The nearly 9,000-km-long AR propagated across North Africa and the Middle East, and was fed by additional moisture from several other sources on its pathway. Simultaneous presence of a midlatitude system and a subtropical jet facilitated the moisture supply. The AR, as passing over the Zagros Mountains, produced record rainfall induced by the orographic forcing. The resulting floods caused widespread damage to infrastructures and left a death toll of at least 76 in Iran.

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Sharon E. Nicholson and Amin K. Dezfuli

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This paper examines the factors governing rainfall variability in western equatorial Africa (WEA) during the April–June rainy season. In three of the five regions examined some degree of large-scale forcing is indicated, particularly in the region along the Atlantic coast. Interannual variability in this coastal sector also demonstrates a strong link to changes in local sea surface temperatures (SSTs) and the South Atlantic subtropical high.

To examine potential causal mechanisms, various atmospheric parameters are evaluated for wet and dry composites. The results suggest that the intensity of the zonal circulation in the global tropics is a crucial control on rainfall variability over WEA. A La Niña (El Niño)–like signal in both SSTs and zonal circulation over the Pacific is apparent in association with the wet (dry) conditions in the western sector. However, remote forcing from the Pacific modulates the circulation over Africa indirectly by way of synchronous changes in the entire Indian or Atlantic Ocean.

Anomalies in the local zonal winds are similar in all three regions: the wet (dry) composite is associated with an intensification (weakening) of the upper-tropospheric easterlies and low-level westerlies, but a weakening (intensification) of the midlevel easterlies. This work also suggests that, in most cases, the relationship between local SSTs and rainfall reflects a common remote forcing by the large-scale atmosphere–ocean system. This forcing is manifested via changes in the zonal circulation. Thus, the statistical associations between rainfall and SSTs do not indicate direct forcing by local SSTs. One point of evidence for this conclusion is the stronger association with atmospheric parameters than with SSTs.

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Amin K. Dezfuli and Sharon E. Nicholson

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This paper examines the mechanisms controlling the year-to-year variability of rainfall over western equatorial Africa during the rainy season of October–December. Five regions with distinct behavior are analyzed separately. Only two show strong associations with the ocean and atmospheric features in the global tropics. These two regions, in the east (the eastern Zaire basin) and west (Angolan coast) of the study area, respectively, demonstrate strikingly opposite relationships with the anomalies of sea surface temperatures (SSTs), sea level pressure (SLP), and east–west atmospheric circulation. The wet (dry) conditions in the eastern Zaire basin are associated with El Niño(La Niña)–like phases. The inverse pattern is apparent for the Angolan coast. The other three regions, lying between these two poles of variability, represent a transition zone with a weak linear relationship to the circulation features.

The vital impact of the east–west circulation cells on rainfall variability results in a stronger association with zonal wind than with SSTs or SLP. In addition to the zonal shift, changes in intensity of the zonal cells also play a crucial role. Variability in both magnitude and location of the circulation cells appear to be modulated by the remote forcing from the Pacific via an atmospheric bridge. However, the eastern sector is impacted mainly when synchronous changes occur in the Indian Ocean, and the western sector is impacted mainly when synchronous changes occur in the Atlantic Ocean.

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Fisseha Berhane, Benjamin Zaitchik, and Amin Dezfuli

Abstract

The Ethiopian portion of the Blue Nile River basin is subject to significant interannual variability in precipitation. As this variability has implications for local food security and transboundary water resources, numerous studies have been directed at improved understanding and, potentially, predictability of the Blue Nile rainy season (June–September) precipitation. Taken collectively, these studies present a wide range of large-scale drivers associated with precipitation variability in the Blue Nile: El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO), the Indian summer monsoon, sea level pressure (SLP) anomalies over the Arabian Peninsula and Gulf of Guinea, the quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO), and dynamics of the tropical easterly jet (TEJ) and African easterly jet (AEJ) have all been emphasized to varying degrees. This study aims to reconcile these diverse analyses by evaluating teleconnection patterns and potential mechanisms of association on the subseasonal scale. It is found that associations with the TEJ, Pacific modes of variability, and the Indian monsoon are strongest in the late rainy season. Mid–rainy season precipitation (July and August) shows mixed associations with Pacific/Indian Ocean variability and Atlantic Ocean indices, along with connections to regional pressure patterns and the AEJ. June precipitation is negatively correlated with SLP over the equatorial Atlantic and upper-tropospheric geopotential height. June and July precipitation show little significant correlation with the sea surface temperature over the equatorial Pacific Ocean. The observed intraseasonal evolution of teleconnections across the rainy season indicates that subseasonal analysis is required to advance understanding and prediction of Blue Nile precipitation variability.

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Sharon E. Nicholson, Amin K. Dezfuli, and Douglas Klotter

A wealth of historical information on climate and weather exists for the African continent. Documentary information, hydrologic indicators, and rain gauge records have been compiled and combined into a semiquantitative precipitation dataset that extends from 1801 to 1900. That dataset describes “wetness” for 90 regions of Africa, using a seven-category index. A regional gauge dataset for 1901–2000 has been converted to the seven-class system, extending coverage to two centuries. These datasets are available through the Paleoclimate Data Center.

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Amin K. Dezfuli, Benjamin F. Zaitchik, and Anand Gnanadesikan

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This study examines daily precipitation data during December–March over south equatorial Africa (SEA) and proposes a new zonal asymmetric pattern (ZAP) that explains the leading mode of weather-scale precipitation variability in the region. The eastern and western components of the ZAP, separated at about 30°E, appear to be a consequence of an anomalous zonal atmospheric cell triggered by enhanced low-level westerly winds. The enhanced westerlies are generated by a diagonal interhemispheric pressure gradient between the southwestern Indian and north tropical Atlantic Oceans. In eastern SEA these winds hit the East African Plateau, producing low-level convergence and convection that further intensifies the westerlies. In western SEA a subsiding branch develops in response, closing the circulation cell. The system gradually dissipates as the pressure gradient weakens. Through this mechanism, simultaneous changes in two hemispheres generate a regional zonally oriented circulation that relies on climatic communication between eastern and western equatorial Africa.

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Amin K. Dezfuli, Benjamin F. Zaitchik, Hamada S. Badr, Jason Evans, and Christa D. Peters-Lidard

Abstract

Rainfall variability in the Tigris–Euphrates headwaters is a result of interaction between topography and meteorological features at a range of spatial scales. Here, the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model, driven by the NCEP–DOE AMIP-II reanalysis (R-2), has been implemented to better understand these interactions. Simulations were performed over a domain covering most of the Middle East. The extended simulation period (1983–2013) enables us to study seasonality, interannual variability, spatial variability, and extreme events of rainfall. Results showed that the annual cycle of precipitation produced by WRF agrees much more closely with observations than does R-2. This was particularly evident during the transition months of April and October, which were further examined to study the underlying physical mechanisms. In both months, WRF improves representation of interannual variability relative to R-2, with a substantially larger benefit in April. This improvement results primarily from WRF’s ability to resolve two low-level, terrain-induced flows in the region that are either absent or weak in R-2: one parallel to the western edge of the Zagros Mountains, and one along the east Turkish highlands. The first shows a complete reversal in its direction during wet and dry days: when flowing southeasterly it transports moisture from the Persian Gulf to the region, and when flowing northwesterly it blocks moisture and transports it away from the region. The second is more directly related to synoptic-scale systems and carries moist, warm air from the Mediterranean and Red Seas toward the region. The combined contribution of these flows explains about 50% of interannual variability in both WRF and observations for April and October precipitation.

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Hamada S. Badr, Amin K. Dezfuli, Benjamin F. Zaitchik, and Christa D. Peters-Lidard

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Many studies have documented dramatic climatic and environmental changes that have affected Africa over different time scales. These studies often raise questions regarding the spatial extent and regional connectivity of changes inferred from observations and proxies and/or derived from climate models. Objective regionalization offers a tool for addressing these questions. To demonstrate this potential, applications of hierarchical climate regionalizations of Africa using observations and GCM historical simulations and future projections are presented. First, Africa is regionalized based on interannual precipitation variability using Climate Hazards Group Infrared Precipitation with Stations (CHIRPS) data for the period 1981–2014. A number of data processing techniques and clustering algorithms are tested to ensure a robust definition of climate regions. These regionalization results highlight the seasonal and even month-to-month specificity of regional climate associations across the continent, emphasizing the need to consider time of year as well as research question when defining a coherent region for climate analysis. CHIRPS regions are then compared to those of five GCMs for the historic period, with a focus on boreal summer. Results show that some GCMs capture the climatic coherence of the Sahel and associated teleconnections in a manner that is similar to observations, while other models break the Sahel into uncorrelated subregions or produce a Sahel-like region of variability that is spatially displaced from observations. Finally, shifts in climate regions under projected twenty-first-century climate change for different GCMs and emissions pathways are examined. A projected change is found in the coherence of the Sahel, in which the western and eastern Sahel become distinct regions with different teleconnections. This pattern is most pronounced in high-emissions scenarios.

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Amin Dezfuli, Kyle G. Horton, Benjamin Zuckerberg, Siegfried D. Schubert, and Michael G. Bosilovich

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For ∼100 years, the continental patterns of avian migration in North America have been described in the context of three or four primary flyways. This spatial compartmentalization often fails to adequately reflect a critical characterization of migration—phenology. This shortcoming has been partly due to the lack of reliable continental-scale data, a gap filled by our current study. Here, we leveraged unique radar-based data quantifying migration phenology and used an objective regionalization approach to introduce a new spatial framework that reflects interannual variability. Therefore, the resulting spatial classification is intrinsically different from the “flyway concept.” We identified two regions with distinct interannual variability of spring migration across the contiguous United States. This data-driven framework enabled us to explore the climatic cues affecting the interannual variability of migration phenology, “specific to each region” across North America. For example, our “two-region” approach allowed us to identify an east–west dipole pattern in migratory behavior linked to atmospheric Rossby waves. Also, we revealed that migration movements over the western United States were inversely related to interannual and low-frequency variability of regional temperature. A similar link, but weaker and only for interannual variability, was evident for the eastern region. However, this region was more strongly tied to climate teleconnections, particularly to the east Pacific–North Pacific (EP–NP) pattern. The results suggest that oceanic forcing in the tropical Pacific—through a chain of processes including Rossby wave trains—controls the climatic conditions, associated with bird migration over the eastern United States. Our spatial platform would facilitate better understanding of the mechanisms responsible for broadscale migration phenology and its potential future changes.

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