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Michael Diaz and Anantha Aiyyer

Abstract

The existence of an upstream (eastward) group velocity for African easterly waves (AEWs) is shown based on single-point lag regressions using gridded reanalysis data from 1990 to 2010. The eastward energy dispersion is consistent with the direction of ageostrophic geopotential flux vectors. A local eddy kinetic energy (EKE) budget reveals that, early in the life cycle of AEWs, growth rate due to geopotential flux convergence exceeds baroclinic and barotropic growth rates. Later in the life cycle, EKE decay due to geopotential flux divergence cancels or exceeds baroclinic and barotropic growth. A potential vorticity (PV) budget is used to diagnose tendencies related to group propagation. Although both upstream and downstream group speeds are possible because of the reversal in the mean meridional PV gradient, upstream propagation associated with the positive poleward PV gradient dominates wave packet evolution. Analogous to the concept of downstream development of midlatitude baroclinic waves, new AEWs develop preferentially upstream of the older ones, thus providing a mechanism for seeding new waves. It is suggested that these results are also relevant to AEW intermittency and storm-track structure.

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Michael Diaz and Anantha Aiyyer

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The stability of the African easterly jet (AEJ) is examined using idealized numerical simulations. It is found that a zonally homogeneous representation of the AEJ can support absolute instability in the form of African easterly waves (AEWs). This finding is verified through a local energy budget, which demonstrates the presence of both upstream and downstream energy fluxes. These energy fluxes allow unstable wave packets to spread upstream and downstream relative to their initial point of excitation. This finding is further verified by showing that the ground-relative group velocity of these wave packets has both eastward and westward components. In contrast with normal-mode instability theory, which emphasizes wave growth through energy extraction from the basic state, the life cycle of the simulated AEWs is strongly governed by energy fluxes. Convergent fluxes at the beginning of the AEW storm track generate new AEWs, whereas divergent fluxes at the end of the storm track lead to their decay. It is argued that, even with small normal-mode growth rates and a short region of instability, the presence of absolute instability allows AEWs to develop through the mixed baroclinic–barotropic instability mechanism, because upstream energy fluxes allow energy extracted through baroclinic and barotropic conversion to be recycled between successive AEWs.

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Michael Diaz and Anantha Aiyyer

Abstract

A genesis mechanism for African easterly waves (AEWs) is proposed. In the same manner that new troughs and ridges in the midlatitudes form downstream of existing ones through a mechanism known as downstream development, it is proposed that new AEWs can be generated upstream of existing AEWs. A local eddy kinetic energy budget of the AEW that ultimately became Hurricane Alberto (2000) demonstrates that upstream development explains its genesis more convincingly than previous theories of AEW genesis. The energetics and ageostrophic secondary circulation of a composite AEW are consistent with a new AEW forming as a result of this mechanism. Some strengths and weaknesses of upstream development as a paradigm for AEW genesis are discussed with respect to other potential mechanisms.

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Michael Diaz and William R. Boos

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This study examines processes fundamental to the development of South Asian monsoon depressions using an array of integrations of an idealized convection-permitting numerical model. In each integration, a wave of initially small amplitude is subjected to a different amount of vertical and meridional wind shear, with temperature and moisture fields constructed according to realistic constraints. Based on the evolution of this disturbance into monsoon depression–like vortices, two features of the background environment emerge as important: the low-level gradient of moist static energy (MSE) and the low-level meridional shear. As the low-level MSE gradient steepens, the disturbance becomes stronger and produces more rain. This strengthening results from the interaction of the vortex with latent heat release by convection that is in turn organized by positive MSE advection in the northerly flow west of the vortex. In this region of advection, moister air from the north ascends along upward-sloping isentropes, driving moist convection. The disturbance also becomes stronger with increasing meridional shear, which makes the environment more barotropically unstable. The absence of either of these two features of the background environment prevents substantial growth of the disturbance. Our results suggest that monsoon depression growth in South Asia is fostered by the coexistence of a strong low-level MSE gradient with strong meridional wind shear associated with the monsoon trough.

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Michael D. Dettinger and Henry F. Diaz

Abstract

Monthly stream flow series from 1345 sites around the world are used to characterize geographic differences in the seasonality and year-to-year variability of stream flow. Stream flow seasonality varies regionally, depending on the timing of maximum precipitation, evapotranspiration, and contributions from snow and ice. Lags between peaks of precipitation and stream flow vary smoothly from long delays in high-latitude and mountainous regions to short delays in the warmest sectors. Stream flow is most variable from year to year in dry regions of the southwest United States and Mexico, the Sahel, and southern continents, and it varies more (relatively) than precipitation in the same regions. Tropical rivers have the steadiest flows. El Niño variations are correlated with stream flow in many parts of the Americas, Europe, and Australia. Many stream flow series from North America, Europe, and the Tropics reflect North Pacific climate, whereas series from the eastern United States, Europe, and tropical South America and Africa reflect North Atlantic climate variations.

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Daniel R. Cayan, Michael D. Dettinger, Henry F. Diaz, and Nicholas E. Graham

Abstract

Decadal (>7- yr period) variations of precipitation over western North America account for 20%–50% of the variance of annual precipitation. Spatially, the decadal variability is broken into several regional [O(1000 km)] components. These decadal variations are contributed by fluctuations in precipitation from seasons of the year that vary from region to region and that are not necessarily concentrated in the wettest season(s) alone. The precipitation variations are linked to various decadal atmospheric circulation and SST anomaly patterns where scales range from regional to global scales and that emphasize tropical or extratropical connections, depending upon which precipitation region is considered. Further, wet or dry decades are associated with changes in frequency of at least a few short-period circulation “modes” such as the Pacific–North American pattern. Precipitation fluctuations over the southwestern United States and the Saskatchewan region of western Canada are associated with extensive shifts of sea level pressure and SST anomalies, suggesting that they are components of low-frequency precipitation variability from global-scale climate processes. Consistent with the global scale of its pressure and SST connection, the Southwest decadal precipitation is aligned with opposing precipitation fluctuations in northern Africa.

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Michael D. Dettinger, Daniel R. Cayan, Henry F. Diaz, and David M. Meko

Abstract

The overall amount of precipitation deposited along the West Coast and western cordillera of North America from 25° to 55°N varies from year to year, and superimposed on this domain-average variability are varying north–south contrasts on timescales from at least interannual to interdecadal. In order to better understand the north–south precipitation contrasts, their interannual and decadal variations are studied in terms of how much they affect overall precipitation amounts and how they are related to large-scale climatic patterns. Spatial empirical orthogonal functions (EOFs) and spatial moments (domain average, central latitude, and latitudinal spread) of zonally averaged precipitation anomalies along the westernmost parts of North America are analyzed, and each is correlated with global sea level pressure (SLP) and sea surface temperature series, on interannual (defined here as 3–7 yr) and decadal (>7 yr) timescales. The interannual band considered here corresponds to timescales that are particularly strong in tropical climate variations and thus is expected to contain much precipitation variability that is related to El Niño–Southern Oscillation; the decadal scale is defined so as to capture the whole range of long-term climatic variations affecting western North America.

Zonal EOFs of the interannual and decadal filtered versions of the zonal-precipitation series are remarkably similar. At both timescales, two leading EOFs describe 1) a north–south seesaw of precipitation pivoting near 40°N and 2) variations in precipitation near 40°N, respectively. The amount of overall precipitation variability is only about 10% of the mean and is largely determined by precipitation variations around 40°–45°N and most consistently influenced by nearby circulation patterns; in this sense, domain-average precipitation is closely related to the second EOF. The central latitude and latitudinal spread of precipitation distributions are strongly influenced by precipitation variations in the southern parts of western North America and are closely related to the first EOF. Central latitude of precipitation moves south (north) with tropical warming (cooling) in association with midlatitude western Pacific SLP variations, on both interannual and decadal timescales. Regional patterns and zonal averages of precipitation-sensitive tree-ring series are used to corroborate these patterns and to extend them into the past and appear to share much long- and short-term information with the instrumentally based zonal precipitation EOFs and moments.

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Michael A. Rawlins, Raymond S. Bradley, Henry F. Diaz, John S. Kimball, and David A. Robinson

Abstract

This study used air temperatures from a suite of regional climate models participating in the North American Climate Change Assessment Program (NARCCAP) together with two atmospheric reanalysis datasets to investigate changes in freezing days (defined as days with daily average temperature below freezing) likely to occur between 30-yr baseline (1971–2000) and midcentury (2041–70) periods across most of North America. Changes in NARCCAP ensemble mean winter temperature show a strong gradient with latitude, with warming of over 4°C near Hudson Bay. The decline in freezing days ranges from less than 10 days across north-central Canada to nearly 90 days in the warmest areas of the continent that currently undergo seasonally freezing conditions. The area experiencing freezing days contracts by 0.9–1.0 × 106 km2 (5.7%–6.4% of the total area). Areas with mean annual temperature between 2° and 6°C and a relatively low rate of change in climatological daily temperatures (<0.2°C day) near the time of spring thaw will encounter the greatest decreases in freezing days. Advances in the timing of spring thaw will exceed the delay in fall freeze across much of the United States, with the reverse pattern likely over most of Canada.

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Henry F. Diaz, Ricardo Trigo, Malcolm K. Hughes, Michael E. Mann, Elena Xoplaki, and David Barriopedro

Developing accurate reconstructions of past climate regimes and enhancing our understanding of the causal factors that may have contributed to their occurrence is important for a number of reasons; these include improvements in the attribution of climate change to natural and anthropogenic forcing, gaining a better appreciation for the range and magnitude of low-frequency variability and previous climatic regimes in comparison with the modern instrumental period, and developing greater insights into the relationship between human society and climatic changes. This paper examine upto- date evidence regarding the characteristics of the climate in medieval times (A.D. ~950–1400). Long and high-resolution climate proxy records reported in the scientific literature, which form the basis for the climate reconstructions, have greatly expanded in the last few decades, with greater numbers of sites that now cover more areas of the globe. Some comparisons with the modern climate record and discussion of potential mechanisms associated with the patterns of medieval climate are presented here, but our main goal is to provide the reader with some appreciation of the richness of past natural climate variability in terms of its spatial and temporal characteristics.

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Travis A. O’Brien, Ashley E. Payne, Christine A. Shields, Jonathan Rutz, Swen Brands, Christopher Castellano, Jiayi Chen, William Cleveland, Michael J. DeFlorio, Naomi Goldenson, Irina V. Gorodetskaya, Héctor Inda Díaz, Karthik Kashinath, Brian Kawzenuk, Sol Kim, Mikhail Krinitskiy, Juan M. Lora, Beth McClenny, Allison Michaelis, John P. O’Brien, Christina M. Patricola, Alexandre M. Ramos, Eric J. Shearer, Wen-Wen Tung, Paul A. Ullrich, Michael F. Wehner, Kevin Yang, Rudong Zhang, Zhenhai Zhang, and Yang Zhou
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