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Peter D. Bromirski, Reinhard E. Flick, and Daniel R. Cayan

Abstract

The longest available hourly tide gauge record along the West Coast (U.S.) at San Francisco yields meteorologically forced nontide residuals (NTR), providing an estimate of the variation in “storminess” from 1858 to 2000. Mean monthly positive NTR (associated with low sea level pressure) show no substantial change along the central California coast since 1858 or over the last 50 years. However, in contrast, the highest 2% of extreme winter NTR levels exhibit a significant increasing trend since about 1950. Extreme winter NTR also show pronounced quasi-periodic decadal-scale variability that is relatively consistent over the last 140 years. Atmospheric sea level pressure anomalies (associated with years having high winter NTR) take the form of a distinct, large-scale atmospheric circulation pattern, with intense storminess associated with a broad, southeasterly displaced, deep Aleutian low that directs storm tracks toward the California coast.

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Momme C. Hell, Bruce D. Cornelle, Sarah T. Gille, Arthur J. Miller, and Peter D. Bromirski

Abstract

Strong surface winds under extratropical cyclones exert intense surface stresses on the ocean that lead to upper-ocean mixing, intensified heat fluxes, and the generation of waves, that, over time, lead to swell waves (longer than 10-s period) that travel long distances. Because low-frequency swell propagates faster than high-frequency swell, the frequency dependence of swell arrival times at a measurement site can be used to infer the distance and time that the wave has traveled from its generation site. This study presents a methodology that employs spectrograms of ocean swell from point observations on the Ross Ice Shelf (RIS) to verify the position of high wind speed areas over the Southern Ocean, and therefore of extratropical cyclones. The focus here is on the implementation and robustness of the methodology in order to lay the groundwork for future broad application to verify Southern Ocean storm positions from atmospheric reanalysis data. The method developed here combines linear swell dispersion with a parametric wave model to construct a time- and frequency-dependent model of the dispersed swell arrivals in spectrograms of seismic observations on the RIS. A two-step optimization procedure (deep learning) of gradient descent and Monte Carlo sampling allows detailed estimates of the parameter distributions, with robust estimates of swell origins. Median uncertainties of swell source locations are 110 km in radial distance and 2 h in time. The uncertainties are derived from RIS observations and the model, rather than an assumed distribution. This method is an example of supervised machine learning informed by physical first principles in order to facilitate parameter interpretation in the physical domain.

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Mariza Costa-Cabral, John S. Rath, William B. Mills, Sujoy B. Roy, Peter D. Bromirski, and Cristina Milesi

Abstract

Large-scale climatic indices have been used as predictors of precipitation totals and extremes in many studies and are used operationally in weather forecasts to circumvent the difficulty in obtaining robust dynamical simulations of precipitation. The authors show that the sea level pressure North Pacific high (NPH) wintertime anomaly, a component of the Northern Oscillation index (NOI), provides a superior covariate of interannual precipitation variability in Northern California, including seasonal precipitation totals, drought, and extreme precipitation intensity, compared to traditional ENSO indices such as the Southern Oscillation index (SOI), the multivariate ENSO index (MEI), Niño-3.4, and others. Furthermore, the authors show that the NPH anomaly more closely reflects the influence of Pacific basin conditions over California in general, over groups of stations used to characterize statewide precipitation in the Sierra Nevada range, and over the southern San Francisco Bay region (NASA Ames Research Center). This paper uses the term prediction to refer to the estimation of precipitation (the predictand) from a climate covariate (the predictor), such as a climate index, or atmospheric moisture. In this sense, predictor and predictand are simultaneous in time. Statistical models employed show the effectiveness of the NPH winter anomaly as a predictor of total winter precipitation and daily precipitation extremes at the Moffett Field station. NPH projected by global climate models is also used in conjunction with atmospheric humidity [atmospheric specific humidity (HUS) at the 850-hPa level] to obtain projections of mean and extreme precipitation. The authors show that future development of accurate forecasts of NPH anomalies issued several months in advance is important for forecasting total winter precipitation and is expected to directly benefit water resource management in California. Therefore, the authors suggest that investigating the lead-time predictability of NPH anomalies is an important direction for future research.

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Russell S. Vose, Scott Applequist, Mark A. Bourassa, Sara C. Pryor, Rebecca J. Barthelmie, Brian Blanton, Peter D. Bromirski, Harold E. Brooks, Arthur T. DeGaetano, Randall M. Dole, David R. Easterling, Robert E. Jensen, Thomas R. Karl, Richard W. Katz, Katherine Klink, Michael C. Kruk, Kenneth E. Kunkel, Michael C. MacCracken, Thomas C. Peterson, Karsten Shein, Bridget R. Thomas, John E. Walsh, Xiaolan L. Wang, Michael F. Wehner, Donald J. Wuebbles, and Robert S. Young

This scientific assessment examines changes in three climate extremes—extratropical storms, winds, and waves—with an emphasis on U.S. coastal regions during the cold season. There is moderate evidence of an increase in both extratropical storm frequency and intensity during the cold season in the Northern Hemisphere since 1950, with suggestive evidence of geographic shifts resulting in slight upward trends in offshore/coastal regions. There is also suggestive evidence of an increase in extreme winds (at least annually) over parts of the ocean since the early to mid-1980s, but the evidence over the U.S. land surface is inconclusive. Finally, there is moderate evidence of an increase in extreme waves in winter along the Pacific coast since the 1950s, but along other U.S. shorelines any tendencies are of modest magnitude compared with historical variability. The data for extratropical cyclones are considered to be of relatively high quality for trend detection, whereas the data for extreme winds and waves are judged to be of intermediate quality. In terms of physical causes leading to multidecadal changes, the level of understanding for both extratropical storms and extreme winds is considered to be relatively low, while that for extreme waves is judged to be intermediate. Since the ability to measure these changes with some confidence is relatively recent, understanding is expected to improve in the future for a variety of reasons, including increased periods of record and the development of “climate reanalysis” projects.

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