A Climatology of Atmospheric Rivers and Associated Precipitation for the Seven US National Climate Assessment Regions

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Journal of Hydrometeorology

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Motivated by a desire to understand the physical mechanisms involved in future anthropogenic changes in extreme temperature events, the key atmospheric circulation patterns associated with extreme daily temperatures over North America in the current climate are identified. The findings show that warm extremes at most locations are associated with positive 500-hPa geopotential height and sea level pressure anomalies just downstream with negative anomalies farther upstream. The orientation, physical characteristics, and spatial scale of these circulation patterns vary based on latitude, season, and proximity to important geographic features (i.e., mountains, coastlines). The anomaly patterns associated with extreme cold events tend to be similar to, but opposite in sign of, those associated with extreme warm events, especially within the westerlies, and tend to scale with temperature in the same locations. Circulation patterns aloft are more coherent across the continent than those at the surface where local surface features influence the occurrence of and patterns associated with extreme temperature days. Temperature extremes may be more sensitive to small shifts in circulation at locations where temperature is strongly influenced by mountains or large water bodies, or at the margins of important large-scale circulation patterns making such locations more susceptible to nonlinear responses to future climate change. The identification of these patterns and processes will allow for a thorough evaluation of the ability of climate models to realistically simulate extreme temperatures and their future trends.



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