Publications

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2018
Guirguis, K, Gershunov A, Clemesha RES, Shulgina T, Subramanian AC, Ralph FM.  2018.  Circulation drivers of atmospheric rivers at the North American West Coast. Geophysical Research Letters. 45:12576-12584.   10.1029/2018gl079249   AbstractWebsite

Atmospheric rivers (ARs) are mechanisms of strong moisture transport capable of bringing heavy precipitation to the West Coast of North America, which drives water resources and can lead to large-scale flooding. Understanding links between climate variability and landfalling ARs is critical for improving forecasts on timescales needed for water resource management. We examined 69years of landfalling ARs along western North America using reanalysis and a long-term AR catalog to identify circulation drivers of AR landfalls. This analysis reveals that AR activity along the West Coast is largely associated with a handful of influential modes of atmospheric variability. Interaction between these modes creates favorable or unfavorable atmospheric states for landfalling ARs at different locations, effectively steering moisture plumes up and down the coast from Mexico to British Columbia. Seasonal persistence of certain modes helps explain interannual variability of landfalling ARs, including recent California drought years and the wet winter of 2016/2017. Plain Language Summary Understanding links between large-scale climate variability and landfalling ARs is important for improving subseasonal-to-seasonal (S2S) predictability of water resources in the western United States. We have analyzed a seven-decade-long catalog of ARs impacting western North America to quantify synoptic influence on AR activity. Our results identify dominant circulation patterns associated with landfalling ARs and show how seasonal variation in the prevalence of certain circulation features modulates the frequency of AR landfalls at different latitudes in a given year. AR variability played an important role in the recent California drought as well as the wet winter of 2016/2017, and we show how this variability was associated with the relative frequency of favorable versus unfavorable atmospheric states. Our findings also reveal that the bulk of AR landfalls along the West Coast is associated with only a handful of influential circulation features, which has implications for S2S predictability.

2006
Favre, A, Gershunov A.  2006.  Extra-tropical cyclonic/anticyclonic activity in North-Eastern Pacific and air temperature extremes in Western North America. Climate Dynamics. 26:617-629.   10.1007/s00382-005-0101-9   AbstractWebsite

Synoptic extra-tropical cyclone and anticyclone trajectories have been constructed from mean daily sea level pressure (SLP) data using a new automated scheme. Frequency, intensity and trajectory characteristics of these transients have been summarized to form indices describing wintertime cyclonic and anticyclonic activity over the North-Eastern Pacific (east of 170 degrees W) during 1950-2001. During this period, the strength of anticyclones gradually diminished and their frequency became more variable, while cyclones intensified in a discrete shift with deeper lows and further southerly trajectories occurring since the mid-1970s. These changes in synoptic transients translate into anomalously low seasonal mean SLP in the Aleutian Low, a low-level circulation anomaly consistent with the positive phase of the North Pacific Decadal Oscillation, with positive sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies along the west coast of North America and negative in the central North Pacific Ocean. A link between cyclonic/anticyclonic activity and tropical SST anomalies also exists, but this link only becomes significant after the mid-1970s, a period that coincides with more southerly cyclone trajectories. Southward excursions of mid-latitude cyclones during El Ni (n) over tildeo/positive NPO winters accomplish the northward advection of tropical air and discourage the southward penetration of polar air masses associated with transient anticyclones. Naturally, these changes in cyclonic/anticyclonic activity directly impact surface air temperatures, especially at night. We document these profound impacts on observed wintertime minimum temperatures over Western North America.

1998
Gershunov, A, Barnett TP.  1998.  ENSO influence on intraseasonal extreme rainfall and temperature frequencies in the contiguous United States: Observations and model results. Journal of Climate. 11:1575-1586.   10.1175/1520-0442(1998)011<1575:eioier>2.0.co;2   AbstractWebsite

The signature of ENSO in the wintertime frequencies of heavy precipitation and temperature extremes is derived from both observations and atmospheric general circulation model output for the contiguous United States. ENSO signals in the frequency of occurrence of heavy rainfall are found in the Southeast, Gulf Coast, central Rockies, and the general area of the Mississippi-Ohio River valleys. Strong, nonlinear signals in extreme warm temperature frequencies are found in the southern and eastern United States. Extreme cold temperature frequencies are found to be less sensitive to ENSO forcing than extreme warm temperature frequencies. Observed ENSO signals in extreme temperature frequencies are not simply manifestations of shifts in mean seasonal temperature. These signals in the wintertime frequency of extreme rainfall and temperature events appear strong enough to be useful in long-range regional statistical prediction. Comparisons of observational and model results show that the model climate is sensitive to ENSO on continental scales and provide some encouragement to modeling studies of intraseasonal sensitivity to low-frequency climatic forcing. However, large regional disagreements exist in all variables. Continental-scale El Nino signatures in intraseasonal temperature variability are not correctly modeled. Modeled signals in extreme temperature event frequencies are much more directly related to shifts in seasonal mean temperature than they are in nature.