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Mathew Barlow and Andrew Hoell
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Laurie Agel and Mathew Barlow

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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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Judah Cohen and Mathew Barlow

Abstract

The North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) and the closely related Arctic Oscillation (AO) strongly affect Northern Hemisphere (NH) surface temperatures with patterns reported similar to the global warming trend. The NAO and AO were in a positive trend for much of the 1970s and 1980s with historic highs in the early 1990s, and it has been suggested that they contributed significantly to the global warming signal. The trends in standard indices of the AO, NAO, and NH average surface temperature for December–February, 1950–2004, and the associated patterns in surface temperature anomalies are examined. Also analyzed are factors previously identified as relating to the NAO, AO, and their positive trend: North Atlantic sea surface temperatures (SSTs), Indo–Pacific warm pool SSTs, stratospheric circulation, and Eurasian snow cover.

Recently, the NAO and AO indices have been decreasing; when these data are included, the overall trends for the past 30 years are weak to nonexistent and are strongly dependent on the choice of start and end date. In clear distinction, the wintertime hemispheric warming trend has been vigorous and consistent throughout the entire period. When considered for the whole hemisphere, the NAO/AO patterns can also be distinguished from the trend pattern. Thus the December–February warming trend may be distinguished from the AO and NAO in terms of the strength, consistency, and pattern of the trend. These results are insensitive to choice of index or dataset. While the NAO and AO may contribute to hemispheric and regional warming for multiyear periods, these differences suggest that the large-scale features of the global warming trend over the last 30 years are unrelated to the AO and NAO. The related factors may also be clearly distinguished, with warm pool SSTs linked to the warming trend, while the others are linked to the NAO and AO.

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Andrew Hoell, Mathew Barlow, and Roop Saini

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Deep tropical convection over the Indian Ocean leads to intense diabatic heating, a main driver of the climate system. The Northern Hemisphere circulation and precipitation associated with intraseasonal and seasonal-to-interannual components of the leading pattern of Indian Ocean convection are investigated for November–April 1979–2008. The leading pattern of Indian Ocean convection is separated into intraseasonal and seasonal-to-interannual components by filtering an index of outgoing longwave radiation at 33–105 days and greater than 105 days, yielding Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO)- and El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO)-influenced patterns, respectively. Observations and barotropic Rossby wave ray tracing experiments suggest that Indian Ocean convection can influence the ENSO-related hemispheric teleconnection pattern in addition to the regional Asian teleconnection. Equivalent barotropic circulation anomalies throughout the Northern Hemisphere subtropics are associated with both seasonal-to-interannual Indian Ocean convection and ENSO. The hemispheric teleconnection associated with seasonal-to-interannual Indian Ocean convection is investigated with ray tracing, which suggests that forcing over the Indian Ocean can propagate eastward across the hemisphere and back to Asia. The relationship between the seasonal-to-interannual component of Indian Ocean convection and ENSO is investigated in terms of a gradient in sea surface temperatures (SST) over the equatorial western Pacific Ocean. When the western Pacific SST gradient is strong during ENSO, strong Maritime Continent precipitation extends further westward into the Indian Ocean, which is accompanied by enhanced tropospheric Asian circulation, similar to the seasonal-to-interannual component of Indian Ocean convection. Analysis of the three strongest interannual convection seasons shows that the strong Indian Ocean pattern of ENSO can dominate individual seasons.

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Andrew Hoell, Mathew Barlow, and Roop Saini

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The leading pattern of precipitation for the Indian Ocean, one of the most intense areas of rainfall on the globe, is calculated for November–April 1979–2008. The associated regional circulation and thermodynamic forcing of precipitation over Asia are examined at both intraseasonal and interannual time scales. The leading pattern is determined using both empirical orthogonal function analysis of monthly precipitation data and a closely related index of daily outgoing longwave radiation filtered into intraseasonal (33–105 days) and interannual (greater than 105 days) components.

The leading pattern has a maximum in the tropical eastern Indian Ocean, and is closely associated with the Madden–Julian oscillation at intraseasonal time scales and related to the El Niño–Southern Oscillation at interannual time scales. Both time scales are associated with baroclinic Gill–Matsuno-like circulation responses extending over southern Asia, but the interannual component also has a strong equivalent barotropic circulation. Thermodynamically, both time scales are associated with cold temperature advection and subsidence over southwest Asia, with advection of the mean temperature by the anomalous wind more important at lower and midlevels and advection of the anomalous temperature by the mean wind more important at upper levels.

For individual months, the intraseasonal variability can overwhelm the interannual variability. Enhanced Indian Ocean convection persisted for almost the entire 2007/08 season in association with severe drought over southwest Asia, but a strong intraseasonal signal in January 2008 reversed the pattern, resulting in damaging floods in the midst of drought.

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Mathew A. Barlow and Michael K. Tippett

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Warm season river flows in central Asia, which play an important role in local water resources and agriculture, are shown to be closely related to the regional-scale climate variability of the preceding cold season. The peak river flows occur in the warm season (April–August) and are highly correlated with the regional patterns of precipitation, moisture transport, and jet-level winds of the preceding cold season (November–March), demonstrating the importance of regional-scale variability in determining the snowpack that eventually drives the rivers. This regional variability is, in turn, strongly linked to large-scale climate variability and tropical sea surface temperatures (SSTs), with the circulation anomalies influencing precipitation through changes in moisture transport. The leading pattern of regional climate variability, as resolved in the operationally updated NCEP–NCAR reanalysis, can be used to make a skillful seasonal forecast for individual river flow stations. This ability to make predictions based on regional-scale climate data is of particular use in this data-sparse area of the world.

The river flow is considered in terms of 24 stations in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan available for 1950–85, with two additional stations available for 1958–2003. These stations encompass the headwaters of the Amu Darya and Syr Darya, two of the main rivers of central Asia and the primary feeders of the catastrophically shrinking Aral Sea. Canonical correlation analysis (CCA) is used to forecast April–August flows based on the period 1950–85; cross-validated correlations exceed 0.5 for 10 of the stations, with a maximum of 0.71. Skill remains high even after 1985 for two stations withheld from the CCA: the correlation for 1986–2002 for the Syr Darya at Chinaz is 0.71, and the correlation for the Amu Darya at Kerki is 0.77. The forecast is also correlated to the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI); maximum values exceed 0.8 at 8-km resolution, confirming the strong connection between hydrology and growing season vegetation in the region and further validating the forecast methodology.

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Roop Saini, Mathew Barlow, and Andrew Hoell

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The regional influence of the Indian monsoon onset is examined though observational analysis focusing on the Rodwell–Hoskins “monsoon-desert” hypothesis, which proposes that the strong diabatic heating associated with the monsoon produces a Gill-like Rossby wave response that thermodynamically interacts with the midlatitude westerly jet to produce subsidence and reduced rainfall to the west of the monsoon. Here, the authors analyze this proposed mechanism in terms of changes to the thermodynamic energy equation, regional circulation, and precipitation between the 10-day periods before and after the monsoon onset, for all onset dates in the 1958–2000 period. A Rossby-like response to the monsoon onset is clear in the observational data and is associated with horizontal temperature advection at midlevels as the westerlies intersect the warm temperature anomalies of the Rossby wave. Analysis of the thermodynamic equation verifies that the horizontal temperature advection is indeed balanced by subsidence over areas of North Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East, and there is an associated decrease in precipitation over those regions. Despite the increased subsidence, diabatic heating changes are small in these regions so diabatic enhancement does not appear to be a primary factor in the response to the onset. This analysis also shows that the same processes that favor subsidence to the west of the monsoon also force rising motion over northern India and appear to be an important factor for the inland development of the monsoon. Comparison of strong and weak onsets further validates these relationships.

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David Small, Shafiqul Islam, and Mathew Barlow

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While there is growing evidence that the main contribution to trends in U.S. precipitation occurs during fall, most studies of seasonal precipitation have focused on winter or summer. Here, the leading mode of fall precipitation variability over North America is isolated from multiple data sources and connected to a hemispheric-scale circulation pattern. Over North America, the leading mode of fall precipitation variability in both station-based and satellite-blended data is a tripole that links fall precipitation anomalies in southern Alaska, the central United States, and eastern Canada. This mode is part of a larger pattern of alternating wet and dry anomalies stretching from the western Pacific to the North Atlantic. Dynamically, the precipitation anomalies are closely associated with changes to regional-scale moisture transport that are, in turn, linked to two independently identified hemispheric-scale wave patterns that are one-quarter wavelength out of phase (i.e., in quadrature) and resemble the circumglobal teleconnection.

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Andrew Hoell, Forest Cannon, and Mathew Barlow

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The spatial and temporal evolution of Middle East and southwest Asia (MESW) precipitation characteristics and the associated atmospheric circulation during times in which tropical eastern Indian Ocean precipitation is either enhanced or reduced associated with the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) is assessed. Using multiple estimates of both the observed precipitation and the MJO during 1981–2016, the evolution of MESW precipitation characteristics throughout November–April is examined in terms of monthly precipitation accumulation on precipitation days, the number of precipitation days, and the number of extreme precipitation days. MJO phases 2–4, during which eastern Indian Ocean precipitation is enhanced, and MJO phases 6–8, during which eastern Indian Ocean precipitation is reduced, are related, with significant decreases and increases in the number of precipitation days across MESW, respectively. The patterns of precipitation-day changes between MJO phases undergo noteworthy spatial and temporal evolutions across the boreal cold season that are influenced by the interaction between Rossby wave forcing by the MJO and seasonal changes in both the upper-level jet and moisture over the region. During December–January, the changes in precipitation days are found primarily over northern MESW, while during February–March, the changes in precipitation days are found primarily over southern MESW. Although the results identify an important sensitivity in the number of precipitation days over the MESW related to the MJO, the same sensitivity is not apparent in terms of the number of extreme precipitation days and, in particular, the amount of precipitation on a precipitation day.

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Judah Cohen, Mathew Barlow, and Kazuyuki Saito

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The warming trend in global surface temperatures over the last 40 yr is clear and consistent with anthropogenic increases in greenhouse gases. Over the last 2 decades, this trend appears to have accelerated. In contrast to this general behavior, however, here it is shown that trends during the boreal cold months in the recent period have developed a marked asymmetry between early winter and late winter for the Northern Hemisphere, with vigorous warming in October–December followed by a reversal to a neutral/cold trend in January–March. This observed asymmetry in the cold half of the boreal year is linked to a two-way stratosphere–troposphere interaction, which is strongest in the Northern Hemisphere during late winter and is related to variability in Eurasian land surface conditions during autumn. This link has been demonstrated for year-to-year variability and used to improve seasonal time-scale winter forecasts; here, this coupling is shown to strongly modulate the warming trend, with implications for decadal-scale temperature projections.

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