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Renaud Barbero, John T. Abatzoglou, and Katherine C. Hegewisch

Abstract

The skill of two statistical downscaled seasonal temperature and precipitation forecasts from the North American Multimodel Ensemble (NMME) was evaluated across the western United States at spatial scales relevant to local decision-making. Both statistical downscaling approaches, spatial disaggregation (SD) and bias correction spatial disaggregation (BCSD), exhibited similar correlative skill measures; however, the BCSD method showed superior tercile-based skill measures since it corrects for variance deflation in NMME ensemble averages. Geographic and seasonal variations in downscaled forecast skill revealed patterns across the complex topography of the western United States not evident using coarse-scale skill assessments, particularly in regions subject to inversions and variability in orographic precipitation ratios. Similarly, differences in the skill of cool-season temperature and precipitation forecasts issued when the fall El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) signal was strong versus ENSO-neutral years were evident across topographic gradients in the northwestern United States.

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John T. Abatzoglou, Renaud Barbero, and Nicholas J. Nauslar

Abstract

Santa Ana winds (SAW) are among the most notorious fire-weather conditions in the United States and are implicated in wildfire and wind hazards in Southern California. This study employs large-scale reanalysis data to diagnose SAW through synoptic-scale dynamic and thermodynamic factors using mean sea level pressure gradient and lower-tropospheric temperature advection, respectively. A two-parameter threshold model of these factors exhibits skill in identifying surface-based characteristics of SAW featuring strong offshore winds and extreme fire weather as viewed through the Fosberg fire weather index across Remote Automated Weather Stations in southwestern California. These results suggest that a strong northeastward gradient in mean sea level pressure aligned with strong cold-air advection in the lower troposphere provide a simple, yet effective, means of diagnosing SAW from synoptic-scale reanalysis. This objective method may be useful for medium- to extended-range forecasting when mesoscale model output may not be available, as well as being readily applied retrospectively to better understand connections between SAW and wildfires in Southern California.

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John T. Abatzoglou, Renaud Barbero, Jacob W. Wolf, and Zachary A. Holden

Abstract

Drought indices are often used for monitoring interannual variability in macroscale hydrology. However, the diversity of drought indices raises several issues: 1) which indices perform best and where; 2) does the incorporation of potential evapotranspiration (PET) in indices strengthen relationships, and how sensitive is the choice of PET methods to such results; 3) what additional value is added by using higher-spatial-resolution gridded climate layers; and 4) how have observed relationships changed through time. Standardized precipitation index, standardized precipitation evapotranspiration index (SPEI), Palmer drought severity index, and water balance runoff (WBR) model output were correlated to water-year runoff for 21 unregulated drainage basins in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. SPEI and WBR with time scales encompassing the primary precipitation season maximized the explained variance in water-year runoff in most basins. Slightly stronger correlations were found using PET estimates from the Penman–Monteith method over the Thornthwaite method, particularly for time periods that incorporated the spring and summer months in basins that receive appreciable precipitation during the growing season. Indices computed using high-resolution climate surfaces explained over 10% more variability than metrics derived from coarser-resolution datasets. Increased correlation in the latter half of the study period was partially attributable to increased streamflow variability in recent decades as well as to improved climate data quality across the interior mountain watersheds.

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Vincent Moron, Renaud Barbero, Jason P. Evans, Seth Westra, and Hayley J. Fowler

Abstract

Six weather types (WTs) are computed for tropical Australia during the wet season (November–March 1979–2015) using cluster analysis of 6-hourly low-level winds at 850 hPa. The WTs may be interpreted as a varying combination of at least five distinct phenomena operating at different time scales: the diurnal cycle, fast and recurrent atmospheric phenomena such as transient low pressure, the intraseasonal Madden–Julian oscillation, the annual cycle, and interannual variations mostly associated with El Niño–Southern Oscillation. The WTs are also strongly phase-locked onto the break/active phases of the monsoon; two WTs characterize mostly the trade-wind regime prevalent either at the start and the end of the monsoon or during its breaks, while three monsoonal WTs occur mostly during its core and active phases. The WT influence is strongest for the frequency of wet spells, while the influence on intensity varies according to the temporal aggregation of the rainfall. At hourly time scale, the climatological mean wet intensity tends to be near-constant in space and not systematically larger for the monsoonal WTs compared to other WTs. Nevertheless, one transitional WT, most prevalent around late November and characterized by weak synoptic forcings and overall drier conditions than the monsoonal WTs, is associated with an increased number of high hourly rainfall intensities for some stations, including for the interior of the Cape York Peninsula. When the temporal aggregation exceeds 6–12 h, the mean intensity tends to be larger for some of the monsoonal WTs, in association with more frequent and also slightly longer wet spells.

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Vincent Moron, Renaud Barbero, Morgan Mangeas, Laurent Borgniet, Thomas Curt, and Laure Berti-Equille

Abstract

An empirical statistical scheme for predicting September–December fires in New Caledonia in the southwestern Pacific Ocean region using a cross-validated generalized linear model has been developed for the 2000–10 period. The predictor employs July sea surface temperatures (SST) recorded over the Niño-4 box (5°S–5°N, 160°–210°E), which are closely related to austral spring (September–November) rainfall anomalies across New Caledonia. The correlation between the logarithm of observed and simulated total burned areas across New Caledonia is 0.87. A decrease in the local-scale skill (median correlation between the log of observed and simulated total burned areas in a 20-km radius around a rain gauge = 0.46) around the main town (Nouméa) and its suburbs in the southwest of Grande Terre, and also in northern New Caledonia, could be associated either with a weaker climatic forcing from the Niño-4 SST index or a small-scale climatic forcing not linearly related to the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon. It is more likely that the decrease is tied to the influence of human-driven factors that blur the regional-scale climatic signal mostly associated with central Pacific ENSO events.

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Elizabeth Lewis, Hayley Fowler, Lisa Alexander, Robert Dunn, Fergus McClean, Renaud Barbero, Selma Guerreiro, Xiao-Feng Li, and Stephen Blenkinsop

Abstract

Extreme short-duration rainfall can cause devastating flooding that puts lives, infrastructure, and natural ecosystems at risk. It is therefore essential to understand how this type of extreme rainfall will change in a warmer world. A significant barrier to answering this question is the lack of sub-daily rainfall data available at the global scale. To this end, a global sub-daily rainfall dataset based on gauged observations has been collated. The dataset is highly variable in its spatial coverage, record length, completeness and, in its raw form, quality. This presents significant difficulties for many types of analyses. The dataset currently comprises 23 687 gauges with an average record length of 13 years. Apart from a few exceptions, the earliest records begin in the 1950s. The Global Sub-Daily Rainfall Dataset (GSDR) has wide applications, including improving our understanding of the nature and drivers of sub-daily rainfall extremes, improving and validating of high-resolution climate models, and developing a high-resolution gridded sub-daily rainfall dataset of indices.

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