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Brant Liebmann
and
Dave Allured
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Klaus Wolter
,
Martin Hoerling
,
Jon K. Eischeid
, and
Dave Allured
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Brant Liebmann
,
Randall M. Dole
,
Charles Jones
,
Ileana Bladé
, and
Dave Allured

Annual global surface temperature and global land surface temperature trends are calculated for all possible periods of the historical record between 1850 and 2009. Two-dimensional parameter diagrams show the critical influence of the choice of start and end years on the calculated trend and associated temperature changes and suggest time scales required to establish robust trends.

The largest trends and associated temperature changes are all positive and have occurred over periods ending in recent years. Substantial positive changes also occurred from the early twentieth century until the mid-1940s. The continents exhibit greater long-term warming than the global average overall, but less warming in the early part of the century (segments ending in the 1940s). The recent period of short-term cooling beginning in the late 1990s is neither statistically significant nor unusual in the context of trend variability in the full historical record.

Global-mean and land surface temperature changes for periods ending in recent years and longer than about 90 years are extremely unlikely to have occurred by chance. In contrast, short-term trends over less than a few decades are generally not statistically significant. This implies significant contributions of decadal variability to trends estimated over such short time periods.

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Brant Liebmann
,
Ileana Bladé
,
Nicholas A. Bond
,
David Gochis
,
Dave Allured
, and
Gary T. Bates

Abstract

The core region of the North American summer monsoon is examined using spatially averaged daily rainfall observations obtained from gauges, with the objective of improving understanding of its climatology and variability. At most grid points, composite and interannual variations of the onset and end of the wet season are well defined, although, among individual stations that make up a grid average, variability is large. The trigger for monsoon onset in southern and eastern Mexico appears to be related to a change in vertical velocity, while for northwestern Mexico, Arizona, and New Mexico it is related to a reduction in stability, as indicated by a decrease in the lifted index. The wet-season rain rate is a combination of the wet-day rain rate, which decreases with distance from the coast, and the wet-day frequency, which is largest over the Sierra Madre Occidental. Thus the maximum total rate lies slightly to the west of the highest orography. As has been previously noted, onset is not always well correlated with total seasonal precipitation, so in these areas, variations of wet-day frequency and wet-day rain rate must be important. Correlations are small between the wet-day frequency and the wet-day rate, and the former is better correlated than the latter with the seasonal rain rate. Summer rainfall in central to southern Mexico exhibits moderate negative correlations with the leading pattern of sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies in the equatorial Pacific, which projects strongly onto El Niño. The influence of equatorial SSTs on southern Mexico rainfall seems to operate mainly through variability of the wet-day frequency, rather than through variations of the wet-day rain rate.

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Awolou Sossa
,
Brant Liebmann
,
Ileana Bladé
,
Dave Allured
,
Harry H. Hendon
,
Pete Peterson
, and
Andrew Hoell

Abstract

This study focuses on the impact of the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO)—as monitored by a well-known multivariate index—on large daily precipitation events in West Africa for the period 1981–2014. Two seasons are considered: the near-equatorial wet season in March–May (MAM) and the peak of the West African monsoon during July–September (JAS), when the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) is at its most northerly position. Although the MJO-related interannual variation of seasonal mean rainfall is large, the focus here is on the impacts of the MJO on daily time scales because variations in the frequency of intense, short-term, flood-causing, rainfall events are more important for West African agriculture than variations in seasonal precipitation, particularly near the Guinean coast, where precipitation is abundant. Using composites based on thresholds of daily precipitation amounts, changes in mean precipitation and frequency of the heaviest daily events associated with the phase of the MJO are investigated. The expected modulation of mean rainfall by the MJO is much stronger during MAM than during JAS; yet the modulation of the largest events (i.e., daily rainfall rates above the 90th percentile) is comparable in both seasons. Conservative statistical tests of local and field significance indicate unambiguous impacts of the MJO of the expected sign during certain phases, but the nature of the impact depends on the local seasonal precipitation regime. For instance, in JAS, the early stages of the MJO increase the risk of flooding in the Sahel monsoon region while providing relief to the dry southern coast.

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Brant Liebmann
,
Suzana J. Camargo
,
Anji Seth
,
José A. Marengo
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Leila M. V. Carvalho
,
Dave Allured
,
Rong Fu
, and
Carolina S. Vera

Abstract

Rainfall in South America as simulated by a 24-ensemble member of the ECHAM 4.5 atmospheric general circulation model is compared and contrasted with observations (in areas in which data are available) for the period 1976–2001. Emphasis is placed on determining the onset and end of the rainy season, from which its length and rain rate are determined.

It is shown that over large parts of the domain the onset and ending dates are well simulated by the model, with biases of less than 10 days. There is a tendency for model onset to occur early and ending to occur late, resulting in a simulated rainy season that is on average too long in many areas. The model wet season rain rate also tends to be larger than observed.

To estimate the relative importance of errors in wet season length and rain rate in determining biases in the annual total, adjusted totals are computed by substituting both the observed climatological wet season length and rate for those of the model. Problems in the rain rate generally are more important than problems in the length.

The wet season length and rain rate also contribute substantially to interannual variations in the annual total. These quantities are almost independent, and it is argued that they are each associated with different mechanisms.

The observed onset dates almost always lie within the range of onset of the ensemble members, even in the areas with a large model onset bias. In some areas, though, the model does not perform well. In southern Brazil the model ensemble average onset always occurs in summer, whereas the observations show that winter is often the wettest period. Individual members, however, do occasionally show a winter rainfall peak. In southern Northeast Brazil the model has a more distinct rainy season than is observed. In the northwest Amazon the model annual cycle is shifted relative to that observed, resulting in a model bias.

No interannual relationship between model and observed onset dates is expected unless onset in the model and observations has a mutual relationship with SST anomalies. In part of the near-equatorial Amazon, there does exist an interannual relationship between onset dates. Previous studies have shown that in this area there is a relationship between SST anomalies and variations in seasonal total rainfall.

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Brant Liebmann
,
Ileana Bladé
,
George N. Kiladis
,
Leila M. V. Carvalho
,
Gabriel B. Senay
,
Dave Allured
,
Stephanie Leroux
, and
Chris Funk

Abstract

A precipitation climatology of Africa is documented using 12 years of satellite-derived daily data from the Global Precipitation Climatology Project (GPCP). The focus is on examining spatial variations in the annual cycle and describing characteristics of the wet season(s) using a consistent, objective, and well-tested methodology. Onset is defined as occurring when daily precipitation consistently exceeds its local annual daily average and ends when precipitation systematically drops below that value. Wet season length, rate, and total are then determined. Much of Africa is characterized by a single summer wet season, with a well-defined onset and end, during which most precipitation falls. Exceptions to the single wet season regime occur mostly near the equator, where two wet periods are usually separated by a period of relatively modest precipitation. Another particularly interesting region is the semiarid to arid eastern Horn of Africa, where there are two short wet seasons separated by nearly dry periods. Chiefly, the summer monsoon spreads poleward from near the equator in both hemispheres, although in southern Africa the wet season progresses northwestward from the southeast coast. Composites relative to onset are constructed for selected points in West Africa and in the eastern Horn of Africa. In each case, onset is often preceded by the arrival of an eastward-propagating precipitation disturbance. Comparisons are made with the satellite-based Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) and gauge-based Famine Early Warning System (FEWS NET) datasets. GPCP estimates are generally higher than TRMM in the wettest parts of Africa, but the timing of the annual cycle and average onset dates are largely consistent.

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Brant Liebmann
,
Ileana Bladé
,
Chris Funk
,
Dave Allured
,
Xiao-Wei Quan
,
Martin Hoerling
,
Andrew Hoell
,
Pete Peterson
, and
Wassila M. Thiaw

Abstract

The 1981–2014 climatology and variability of the March–May eastern Horn of Africa boreal spring wet season are examined using precipitation, upper- and lower-level winds, low-level specific humidity, and convective available potential energy (CAPE), with the aim of better understanding the establishment of the wet season and the cause of the recent observed decline. At 850 mb, the development of the wet season is characterized by increasing specific humidity and winds that veer from northeasterly in February to southerly in June and advect moisture into the region, in agreement with an earlier study. Equally important, however, is a substantial weakening of the 200-mb climatological easterly winds in March. Likewise, the shutdown of the wet season coincides with the return of strong easterly winds in June. Similar changes are seen in the daily evolution of specific humidity and 200-mb wind when composited relative to the interannual wet season onset and end, with the easterlies decreasing (increasing) several days prior to the start (end) of the wet season. The 1981–2014 decrease in March–May precipitation has also coincided with an increase in 200-mb easterly winds, with no attendant change in specific humidity, leading to the conclusion that, while high values of specific humidity are an important ingredient of the wet season, the recent observed precipitation decline has resulted mostly from a strengthening of the 200-mb easterlies. This change in the easterly winds appears to be related to an increase in convection over the Indonesian region and in the associated outflow from that enhanced heat source.

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Brant Liebmann
,
Martin P. Hoerling
,
Chris Funk
,
Ileana Bladé
,
Randall M. Dole
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Dave Allured
,
Xiaowei Quan
,
Philip Pegion
, and
Jon K. Eischeid

Abstract

Observations and sea surface temperature (SST)-forced ECHAM5 simulations are examined to study the seasonal cycle of eastern Africa rainfall and its SST sensitivity during 1979–2012, focusing on interannual variability and trends. The eastern Horn is drier than the rest of equatorial Africa, with two distinct wet seasons, and whereas the October–December wet season has become wetter, the March–May season has become drier.

The climatological rainfall in simulations driven by observed SSTs captures this bimodal regime. The simulated trends also qualitatively reproduce the opposite-sign changes in the two rainy seasons, suggesting that SST forcing has played an important role in the observed changes. The consistency between the sign of 1979–2012 trends and interannual SST–precipitation correlations is exploited to identify the most likely locations of SST forcing of precipitation trends in the model, and conceivably also in nature. Results indicate that the observed March–May drying since 1979 is due to sensitivity to an increased zonal gradient in SST between Indonesia and the central Pacific. In contrast, the October–December precipitation increase is mostly due to western Indian Ocean warming.

The recent upward trend in the October–December wet season is rather weak, however, and its statistical significance is compromised by strong year-to-year fluctuations. October–December eastern Horn rain variability is strongly associated with El Niño–Southern Oscillation and Indian Ocean dipole phenomena on interannual scales, in both model and observations. The interannual October–December correlation between the ensemble-average and observed Horn rainfall 0.87. By comparison, interannual March–May Horn precipitation is only weakly constrained by SST anomalies.

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Brant Liebmann
,
George N. Kiladis
,
Dave Allured
,
Carolina S. Vera
,
Charles Jones
,
Leila M. V. Carvalho
,
Ileana Bladé
, and
Paula L. M. Gonzáles

Abstract

The mechanisms resulting in large daily rainfall events in Northeast Brazil are analyzed using data filtering to exclude periods longer than 30 days. Composites of circulation fields that include all independent events do not reveal any obvious forcing mechanisms as multiple patterns contribute to Northeast Brazil precipitation variability. To isolate coherent patterns, subsets of events are selected based on anomalies that precede the Northeast Brazil precipitation events at different locations. The results indicate that at 10°S, 40°W, the area of lowest annual rainfall in Brazil, precipitation occurs mainly in association with trailing midlatitude synoptic wave trains originating in either hemisphere. Closer to the equator at 5°S, 37.5°W, an additional convection precursor is found to the west, with a spatial structure consistent with that of a Kelvin wave. Although these two sites are located within only several hundred kilometers of each other and the midlatitude patterns that induce precipitation appear to be quite similar, the dates on which large precipitation anomalies occur at each location are almost entirely independent, pointing to separate forcing mechanisms.

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