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Guiling Wang
and
Elfatih A. B. Eltahir

Abstract

Subgrid variability in rainfall distribution has been widely recognized as an important factor to include in the representation of land surface hydrology within climate models. In this paper, using West Africa as a case study, the impact of the subgrid variability in rainfall interception on the modeling of the biosphere–atmosphere system is investigated. According to the authors’ results, when neglecting the rainfall spatial variability, even if the impact on the total evapotranspiration is negligible, significant errors may result in the representation of surface hydrological processes and surface energy balance. These findings are consistent with the results of previous studies. However, in this paper, this issue is further explored and it is demonstrated that the extent of the resulting errors is not limited to the land surface processes. They extend to the atmosphere via the low-level cloud feedback to impact solar radiation, boundary layer energy, atmospheric circulation, and the distribution of precipitation. The same errors also propagate into the biosphere through vegetation dynamics and can eventually lead to a significantly different biosphere–atmosphere equilibrium state. This study provides a good example for the need to have physical realism in modeling the subgrid variability and most other details of the complex biosphere–atmosphere–ocean system.

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Guiling Wang
and
Elfatih A. B. Eltahir

Abstract

The natural variability in the annual flow of the Nile is significantly regulated by the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO). In this paper, several sources of information are combined, including ENSO, rainfall over Ethiopia, and the recent history of river flow in the Nile, in order to obtain accurate forecasts of the Nile flood at Aswan. The Bayesian theorem is used in developing the discriminant forecasting algorithm. Conditional categoric probabilities are used to describe the flood forecasts, and a synoptic index is defined to measure the forecasts’ skill. The results presented show that ENSO information is the only valuable predictor for the long-range forecasts (lead time longer than the hydrological response timescale, which is 2–3 months in this study). However, the incorporation of the rainfall and river flow information in addition to the ENSO information significantly improves the quality of the medium-range forecasts (lead time shorter than the hydrological response timescale).

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Pengfei Xue
and
Elfatih A. B. Eltahir

Abstract

Because of the scarcity of observational data, existing estimates of the heat and water budgets of the Persian Gulf are rather uncertain. This uncertainty leaves open the fundamental question of whether this water body is a net heat source or a net heat sink to the atmosphere. Previous regional modeling studies either used specified surface fluxes to simulate the hydrodynamics of the Gulf or prescribed SST in simulating the regional atmospheric climate; neither of these two approaches is suitable for addressing the above question or for projecting the future climate in this region. For the first time, a high-resolution, two-way, coupled Gulf–atmosphere regional model (GARM) is developed, forced by solar radiation and constrained by observed lateral boundary conditions, suited for the study of current and future climates of the Persian Gulf. Here, this study demonstrates the unique capability of this model in consistently predicting surface heat and water fluxes and lateral heat and water exchanges with the Arabian Sea, as well as the variability of water temperature and water mass. Although these variables are strongly coupled, only SST has been directly and sufficiently observed. The coupled model succeeds in simulating the water and heat budgets of the Persian Gulf without any artificial flux adjustment, as demonstrated in the close agreement of model simulation with satellite and in situ observations.

The coupled regional climate model simulates a net surface heat flux of +3 W m−2, suggesting a small net heat flux from the atmosphere into the Persian Gulf. The annual evaporation from the Persian Gulf is 1.84 m yr−1, and the annual influx and outflux of water through the Strait of Hormuz between the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea are equivalent to Persian Gulf–averaged precipitation and evaporation rates of 33.7 and 32.1 m yr−1, with a net influx of water equivalent to a Persian Gulf–averaged precipitation rate of 1.6 m yr−1. The average depth of the Persian Gulf water is ~38 m. Hence, it suggests that the mean residency time scale for the entire Persian Gulf is ~14 months.

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Alexandre Tuel
and
Elfatih A. B. Eltahir

Abstract

The geography of Europe as a continental landmass, located between the arid Sahara and the cold high latitudes (both are dry in terms of absolute humidity), dictates the reliance during summer of southern Europe (south of 45°N) on stored water from winter and spring, and of northwestern Europe on a small concentrated low-level moisture jet from the North Atlantic. In a recent study, we explained the projected winter precipitation decline over the Mediterranean under climate change as due to shifts in upper tropospheric stationary waves and to the regional-scale land–water warming contrast. Here, based on the analysis of observations and output from models from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project, we expand this theory further, documenting how the winter precipitation decline expands into southern Europe during spring, dictated by similar dynamical mechanisms, depleting soil moisture and setting the stage for drier summers via soil moisture–precipitation feedbacks. Over northwestern Europe, an anomalous anticyclonic circulation west of the British Isles displaces the low-level moisture jet northward, limiting moisture supply, and reducing low-level relative humidity and rainfall. Finally, we discuss how this comprehensive perspective of European summer climate change can help us better understand the variations across model projections, and pave the way for their reduction.

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Elfatih A. B. Eltahir
and
Cuiling Gong

Abstract

This paper proposes a theoretical framework for describing interannual climatic variability over West Africa. The dynamical theory of zonally symmetrical thermally direct circulations suggests that a meridional monsoon circulation must develop over any tropical region (off the equator) when the absolute vorticity near the tropopause reaches a threshold value of zero. However, for a moist atmosphere that satisfies a quasi-equilibrium balance between moist convection and the radiative forcing, the absolute vorticity at upper-tropospheric levels is a function of both latitude and the meridional distribution of boundary-layer entropy. Hence, the onset of a monsoon circulation depends in a nonlinear fashion on these two factors. The theory predicts that a flat distribution of entropy does not drive any circulation and that a relatively large gradient of entropy should drive a strong monsoon circulation. The location of the region of West Africa, relatively close to the equator, dictates that the dynamics of a monsoon over that region are relatively sensitive to interannual fluctuations in the meridional gradient of boundary-layer entropy. Here, we present observations on entropy and wind over West Africa during the monsoon seasons of 1958 and 1960. The following observations were consistent with the proposed relationship between boundary-layer entropy and the monsoon circulation: a large meridional gradient of boundary-layer entropy, a healthy monsoon, and wet conditions over the Sahel region were observed in 1958; and a nearly flat distribution of entropy, very weak circulation, and relatively dry conditions were observed in 1960. Moreover, the proposed theoretical relationship between the meridional gradient of boundary-layer entropy and the monsoon circulation over West Africa is consistent with the empirical observations of sea surface temperature anomalies (SSTAs) in the tropical Atlantic and rainfall in the Sahel region. Theoretically, a cold (warm) SSTA in the region located south of the West African coast should favor a large (small) meridional gradient of entropy, a strong (weak) monsoon circulation, and wet (dry) conditions in the Sahel. A large body of observations confirms that cold (warm) SSTAs off the southern coast of West Africa are associated with wet (dry) years in the Sahel region.

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Xinyu Zheng
and
Elfatih A. B. Eltahir

Abstract

The focus of this paper is the role of meridional distribution of vegetation in the dynamics of monsoons and rainfall over West Africa. A moist zonally symmetric atmospheric model coupled with a simple land surface scheme is developed to investigate these processes. Four primary experiments have been carried out to examine the sensitivity of West African monsoons to perturbations in the meridional distribution of vegetation. In the control experiment, the authors assume a distribution of vegetation that resembles the natural vegetation cover in West Africa. Each perturbation experiment is identical to the control experiment except that a change in vegetation cover is imposed for a latitudinal belt that is 10° in width. The results of the numerical experiments demonstrate that West African monsoons and therefore rainfall distribution depend critically on the location of the vegetation perturbations. Changes in vegetation cover along the border between the Sahara desert and West Africa (desertification) may have a minor impact on the simulated monsoon circulation. However, coastal deforestation may cause the collapse of the monsoon circulation and have a dramatic impact on the regional rainfall. The observed deforestation in West Africa is then likely to be a significant contributor to the observed drought.

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Catherine A. Nikiel
and
Elfatih A. B. Eltahir

Abstract

Agricultural development is among the most significant forms of land-use change globally. In central North America it has consisted of cropland expansion in the early 1900s, yield intensification starting in the 1930s, and the development of large irrigated areas beginning in the 1950s. The area of this study encompasses the Midwest and Great Plains of the United States not only because significant agricultural change has occurred here but also because of the significant cooling (warming hole) there in the midcentury. This study investigates the relative contribution of agricultural development and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on the observed patterns of regional changes in summer temperature, precipitation, and evapotranspiration using a long-term twentieth-century reanalysis dataset (CERA-20C) as boundary conditions for simulations with the MIT Regional Climate Model (MRCM). Temperatures in the Great Plains (33°–43°N, 95°–109°W) and the Midwest (38°–48°N, 82°–109°W) would have been significantly higher in the second half of the twentieth century without the influence of agricultural development, largely due to an increase in evaporative cooling. The simulations of precipitation changes reflect a significant influence of global SST teleconnections at decadal time scales. Numerical simulations also demonstrate the competing effects of cropland expansion and yield intensification on shaping the observed pattern of increases in precipitation. Ultimately, a combination of agricultural development and decadal variability of global sea surface temperatures (SST) explains most of the observed variability of summer temperature and precipitation during the twentieth century over central North America.

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Kirsten L. Findell
and
Elfatih A. B. Eltahir

Abstract

This paper investigates the influence of soil moisture on the development and triggering of convection in different early-morning atmospheric conditions. A one-dimensional model of the atmospheric boundary layer (BL) is initialized with atmospheric sounding data from Illinois and with the soil moisture set to either extremely wet (saturated) or extremely dry (20% of saturation) conditions. Two measures are developed to assess the low-level temperature and humidity structure of the early-morning atmosphere. These two measures are used to distinguish between four types of soundings, based on the likely outcome of the model: 1) those soundings favoring deep convection over dry soils, 2) those favoring deep convection over wet soils, 3) those unlikely to convect over any land surface, and 4) those likely to convect over any land surface. Examples of the first two cases are presented in detail.

The early-morning atmosphere is characterized in this work by the newly developed convective triggering potential (CTP) and a low-level humidity index, HIlow. The CTP measures the departure from a moist adiabatic temperature lapse rate in the region between 100 and 300 mb (about 1–3 km) above the ground surface (AGS). This region is the critical interface between the near-surface region, which is almost always incorporated into the growing BL, and free atmospheric air, which is almost never incorporated into the BL. Together, these two measures form the CTP-HIlow framework for analyzing atmospheric controls on soil moisture–boundary layer interactions.

Results show that in Illinois deep convection is trigged in the model 22% of the time over wet soils and only 13% of the time over dry soils. Additional testing varying the radiative conditions in Illinois and also using the 1D model with soundings from four additional stations confirm that the CTP-HIlow framework is valid for regions far removed from Illinois.

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Kirsten L. Findell
and
Elfatih A. B. Eltahir

Abstract

The CTP-HIlow framework for describing atmospheric controls on soil moisture–boundary layer interactions is described in a companion paper, . In this paper, the framework is applied to the continental United States to investigate how differing atmospheric regimes influence local feedbacks between the land surface and the atmosphere. The framework was developed with a one-dimensional boundary layer model and is based on two measures of atmospheric thermodynamic properties: the convective triggering potential (CTP), a measure of the temperature lapse rate between approximately 1 and 3 km above the ground surface, and a low-level humidity index, HIlow. These two measures are used to distinguish between three types of early-morning atmospheric conditions: those favoring moist convection over dry soils, those favoring moist convection over wet soils, and those that will allow or prevent deep convective activity, independent of the surface flux partitioning.

Analyses of multiyear CTP-HIlow scatterplots from radiosonde stations across the contiguous 48 United States reveal that during the summer months (June, July, and August) positive feedbacks between soil moisture and moist convection are likely in much of the eastern half of the country. Over the western half of the country, atmospheric conditions and the likelihood of moist convection are largely determined by oceanic influences, and land surface conditions in the summer are unlikely to impact convective triggering. The only area showing a potential negative feedback is in the dryline and monsoon region of the arid Southwest. This potential arises because of the topography of this and surrounding regions. A relatively narrow band of stations lies in between the eastern and western portions of the country, in some years behaving like the stations to the west and in other years behaving like the stations to the east.

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Marc P. Marcella
and
Elfatih A. B. Eltahir

Abstract

This paper presents an analysis of the spatial, seasonal, and interannual variabilities of Kuwaiti rainfall. Based on an analysis of rain gauge, as well as satellite, datasets, it is estimated that about 110–190 mm of rainfall occurs annually in Kuwait, depending on the dataset sampled. The corresponding estimates for the standard deviations of the annual rainfall are about 40–70 mm. Discrepancies between values arise from the different techniques used in constructing each dataset. Moreover, the spatial distribution of annual rainfall features a gradual increase from the southwest to the northeast. A distinct rainy season occurs from November to April, with double peaks in January and March. In addition, the seasonal variability of rainfall is associated with shifts in patterns of midlatitude storm tracks, which propagate southward toward the Middle East during the winter and spring season. These trends are characterized using estimates of the spatial correlations of rainfall in Kuwait with the surrounding region. At the interannual time scale, significant correlation is found between the tropical El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and annual rainfall anomalies. Similar weak correlations are found between midlatitude rainfall in Europe and rainfall in Kuwait. The weak connections observed with both tropical and midlatitude atmospheric systems are consistent with the fact that Kuwait is located in the transitional zone between the tropics and midlatitudes.

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