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Ben Ari, T, Gershunov A, Gage KL, Snall T, Ettestad P, Kausrud KL, Stenseth NC.  2008.  Human plague in the USA: the importance of regional and local climate. Biology Letters. 4:737-740.   10.1098/rsbl.2008.0363   AbstractWebsite

A 56-year time series of human plague cases (Yersinia pestis) in the western United States was used to explore the effects of climatic patterns on plague levels. We found that the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), together with previous plague levels and above-normal temperatures, explained much of the plague variability. We propose that the PDO's impact on plague is conveyed via its effect on precipitation and temperature and the effect of precipitation and temperature on plague hosts and vectors: warmer and wetter climate leading to increased plague activity and thus an increased number of human cases. Our analysis furthermore provides insights into the consistency of plague mechanisms at larger scales.

Biondi, F, Gershunov A, Cayan DR.  2001.  North Pacific decadal climate variability since 1661. Journal of Climate. 14:5-10.   10.1175/1520-0442(2001)014<0005:npdcvs>2.0.co;2   AbstractWebsite

Climate in the North Pacific and North American sectors has experienced interdecadal shifts during the twentieth century. A network of recently developed tree-ring chronologies for Southern and Baja California extends the instrumental record and reveals decadal-scale variability back to 1661. The Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO) is closely matched by the dominant mode of tree-ring variability that provides a preliminary view of multiannual climate fluctuations spanning the past four centuries. The reconstructed PDO index features a prominent bidecadal oscillation, whose amplitude weakened in the late 1700s to mid-1800s. A comparison with proxy records of ENSO suggests that the greatest decadal-scale oscillations in Pacific climate between 1706 and 1977 occurred around 1750, 1905, and 1947.

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Gershunov, A, Michaelsen J.  1996.  Climatic-scale space-time variability of tropical precipitation. Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres. 101:26297-26307.   10.1029/96jd01382   AbstractWebsite

More than 15 years of monthly microwave sounding unit rainfall data over the tropical oceans are analyzed to illustrate rainfall variability on various timescales and delineate its spatial patterns. The annual and semiannual components of the seasonal cycle are modeled with first and second annual harmonics at every 2.5 degrees x 2.5 degrees grid square. Regions of highest rainfall variability tend to be characterized by a powerful annual cycle. The semiannual cycle is generally a trivial component of the seasonal cycle, except in some regions where either the mean climatological precipitation is low or where the total seasonal cycle is weak. An interesting exception, in this respect, is a band of the southeastern tropical Pacific extending immediately to the south of the eastern equatorial Pacific cold tongue. Regions of highest climatological mean rainfall are characterized by weak seasonality but strong nonseasonal variability. After seasonality is described and removed from the data, nonseasonal variability is considered via principal component analysis in the time domain. The two dominant modes together describe precipitation variability associated with the El Nino-Southern Oscillation: they outline the evolution of warm- and cold-event precipitation anomalies and contrast the intense 1982-1983 warm event with the moderate events of 1986-1987 and 1992-1993. These two modes display oscillations with predominantly quasi-biennial and similar to 5-year periods. Another coherent mode summarizes intraseasonal variability which, although inadequately resolved by the monthly average rainfall data, displays typical signs of the 40- to 50-day oscillation. All coherent modes, despite having much of their energy concentrated around rather different frequencies, show signs of interaction.

Guzman-Morales, J, Gershunov A, Theiss J, Li HQ, Cayan D.  2016.  Santa Ana Winds of Southern California: Their climatology, extremes, and behavior spanning six and a half decades. Geophysical Research Letters. 43:2827-2834.   10.1002/2016gl067887   AbstractWebsite

Santa Ana Winds (SAWs) are an integral feature of the regional climate of Southern California/Northern Baja California region, but their climate-scale behavior is poorly understood. In the present work, we identify SAWs in mesoscale dynamical downscaling of a global reanalysis from 1948 to 2012. Model winds are validated with anemometer observations. SAWs exhibit an organized pattern with strongest easterly winds on westward facing downwind slopes and muted magnitudes at sea and over desert lowlands. We construct hourly local and regional SAW indices and analyze elements of their behavior on daily, annual, and multidecadal timescales. SAWs occurrences peak in winter, but some of the strongest winds have occurred in fall. Finally, we observe that SAW intensity is influenced by prominent large-scale low-frequency modes of climate variability rooted in the tropical and north Pacific ocean-atmosphere system.

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Polade, SD, Gershunov A, Cayan DR, Dettinger MD, Pierce DW.  2013.  Natural climate variability and teleconnections to precipitation over the Pacific-North American region in CMIP3 and CMIP5 models. Geophysical Research Letters. 40:2296-2301.   10.1002/grl.50491   AbstractWebsite

Natural climate variability will continue to be an important aspect of future regional climate even in the midst of long-term secular changes. Consequently, the ability of climate models to simulate major natural modes of variability and their teleconnections provides important context for the interpretation and use of climate change projections. Comparisons reported here indicate that the CMIP5 generation of global climate models shows significant improvements in simulations of key Pacific climate mode and their teleconnections to North America compared to earlier CMIP3 simulations. The performance of 14 models with simulations in both the CMIP3 and CMIP5 archives are assessed using singular value decomposition analysis of simulated and observed winter Pacific sea surface temperatures (SSTs) and concurrent precipitation over the contiguous United States and northwestern Mexico. Most of the models reproduce basic features of the key natural mode and their teleconnections, albeit with notable regional deviations from observations in both SST and precipitation. Increasing horizontal resolution in the CMIP5 simulations is an important, but not a necessary, factor in the improvement from CMIP3 to CMIP5.

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Schwartz, RE, Gershunov A, Iacobellis SF, Cayan DR.  2014.  North American west coast summer low cloudiness: Broadscale variability associated with sea surface temperature. Geophysical Research Letters. 41:3307-3314.   10.1002/2014gl059825   AbstractWebsite

Six decades of observations at 20 coastal airports, from Alaska to southern California, reveal coherent interannual to interdecadal variation of coastal low cloudiness (CLC) from summer to summer over this broad region. The leading mode of CLC variability represents coherent variation, accounting for nearly 40% of the total CLC variance spanning 1950-2012. This leading mode and the majority of individual airports exhibit decreased low cloudiness from the earlier to the later part of the record. Exploring climatic controls on CLC, we identify North Pacific Sea Surface Temperature anomalies, largely in the form of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) as well correlated with, and evidently helping to organize, the coherent patterns of summer coastal cloud variability. Links from the PDO to summer CLC appear a few months in advance of the summer. These associations hold up consistently in interannual and interdecadal frequencies.

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White, WB, Gershunov A, Annis J.  2008.  Climatic influences on Midwest drought during the twentieth century. Journal of Climate. 21:517-531.   10.1175/2007jcli1465.1   AbstractWebsite

The Dustbowl Era drought in the 1930s was the principal Midwest drought of the twentieth century, occurring primarily in late spring-summer [April-August (AMJJA)] when > 70% of annual rainfall normally occurred. Another major Midwest drought occurred in the 1950s but primarily in fall-early winter [September-December (SOND)] when normal rainfall was similar to 1/2 as much. Optimized canonical correlation analysis (CCA) is applied to forecast AMJJA and SOND Midwest rainfall variability in cross-validated fashion from antecedent DJF and JJA sea surface temperature (SST) variability in the surrounding oceans. These CCA models simulate (i. e., hindcast, not forecast) the Dustbowl Era drought of the 1930s and four of seven secondary AMJJA droughts (>= 3-yr duration) during the twentieth century, and the principal Midwest drought of the 1950s and one of three secondary SOND droughts. Diagnosing the model canonical correlations finds the superposition of tropical Pacific cool phases of the quasi-decadal oscillation (QDO) and interdecadal oscillation (IDO) responsible for secondary droughts in AMJJA when ENSO was weak and finds the eastern equatorial Pacific cool phase of the ENSO responsible for secondary droughts during SOND when ENSO was strong. These explain why secondary droughts in AMJJA occurred more often (nearly every decade) and were of longer duration than secondary droughts in SOND when decadal drought tendencies were usually interrupted by ENSO. These diagnostics also find the AMJJA Dustbowl Era drought in the 1930s and the principal SOND drought in the 1950s driven primarily by different phases (i. e., in quadrature) of the pentadecadal signal in the Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO).