Published In

Journal of Climate

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Self-organizing systems, Precipitation (Meteorology), Atmospheric physics, Hydrologic cycle, Self-organizing maps


The self-organizing maps (SOMs) approach is demonstrated as a way to identify a range of archetypal large-scale meteorological patterns (LSMPs) over the northwestern United States and connect these patterns with local-scale temperature and precipitation extremes. SOMs are used to construct a set of 12 characteristic LSMPs (nodes) based on daily reanalysis circulation fields spanning the range of observed synoptic-scale variability for the summer and winter seasons for the period 1979–2013. Composites of surface variables are constructed for subsets of days assigned to each node to explore relationships between temperature, precipitation, and the node patterns. The SOMs approach also captures interannual variability in daily weather regime frequency related to El Niño–Southern Oscillation. Temperature and precipitation extremes in high-resolution gridded observations and in situ station data show robust relationships with particular nodes in many cases, supporting the approach as a way to identify LSMPs associated with local extremes. Assigning days from the extreme warm summer of 2015 and wet winter of 2016 to nodes illustrates how SOMs may be used to assess future changes in extremes. These results point to the applicability of SOMs to climate model evaluation and assessment of future projections of local-scale extremes without requiring simulations to reliably resolve extremes at high spatial scales.


© 2017 American Meteorological Society.



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