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Aguilera, R, Gershunov A, Benmarhnia T.  2019.  Atmospheric rivers impact California's coastal water quality via extreme precipitation. Science of the Total Environment. 671:488-494.   10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.03.318   AbstractWebsite

Precipitation in California is projected to become more volatile: less frequent but more extreme as global warming pushes midlatitude frontal cyclones further poleward while bolstering the atmospheric rivers (ARs), which tend to produce the region's extreme rainfall. Pollutant accumulation and delivery to coastal waters can be expected to increase, as lengthening dry spells will be increasingly punctuated by more extreme precipitation events. Coastal pollution exposes human populations to high levels of fecal bacteria and associated pathogens, which can cause a variety of health impacts. Consequently, studying the impact of atmospheric rivers as the mechanism generating pulses of water pollution in coastal areas is relevant for public health and in the context of climate change. We aimed to quantify the links between precipitation events and water quality in order to explore meteorological causes as first steps toward effective early warning systems for the benefit of population health in California and beyond. We used historical gridded daily precipitation and weekly multiple fecal bacteria indicators at similar to 500 monitoring locations in California's coastal waters to identify weekly associations between precipitation and water quality during 2003-09 using canonical correlation analysis to account for the nested/clustered nature of longitudinal data. We then quantified, using a recently published catalog of atmospheric rivers, the proportion of coastal pollution events attributable to ARs. Association between precipitation and fecal bacteria was strongest in Southern California. Over two-thirds of coastal water pollution spikes exceeding one standard deviation were associated with ARs. This work highlights the importance of skillful AR landfall predictions in reducing vulnerability to extreme weather improving resilience of human populations in a varying and changing climate. Quantifying the impacts of ARs on waterborne diseases is important for planning effective preventive strategies for public health. (C) 2019 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Alfaro, EJ, Pierce DW, Steinemann AC, Gershunov A.  2005.  Relationships between the irrigation-pumping electrical loads and the local climate in Climate Division 9, Idaho. Journal of Applied Meteorology. 44:1972-1978.   10.1175/jam2315.1   AbstractWebsite

The electrical load from irrigation pumps is an important part of the overall electricity demand in many agricultural areas of the U.S. west. The date the pumps turn on and the total electrical load they present over the summer varies from year to year, partly because of climate fluctuations. Predicting this variability would be useful to electricity producers that supply the region. This work presents a contingency analysis and linear regression scheme for forecasting summertime irrigation pump loads in southeastern Idaho. The basis of the predictability is the persistence of spring soil moisture conditions into summer, and the effect it has on summer temperatures. There is a strong contemporaneous relationship between soil moisture and temperature in the summer and total summer pump electrical loads so that a reasonable prediction of summer pump electrical loads based on spring soil moisture conditions can be obtained in the region. If one assumes that decision makers will take appropriate actions based on the forecast output, the net economic benefit of forecast information is approximately $2.5 million per year, making this prediction problem an important seasonal summer forecasting issue with significant economic implications.

Alfaro, EJ, Gershunov A, Cayan DR.  2004.  A method for prediction of California summer air surface temperature. EOS Trans. AGU. 85:553,557-558.   10.1029/2004EO510001   Abstract
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Alfaro, EJ, Gershunov A, Cayan D.  2006.  Prediction of summer maximum and minimum temperature over the central and western United States: The roles of soil moisture and sea surface temperature. Journal of Climate. 19:1407-1421.   10.1175/jcli3665.1   AbstractWebsite

A statistical model based on canonical correlation analysis (CCA) was used to explore climatic associations and predictability of June-August (JJA) maximum and minimum surface air temperatures (Tmax and Tmin) as well as the frequency of Tmax daily extremes (Tmax90) in the central and western United States (west of 90 degrees W). Explanatory variables are monthly and seasonal Pacific Ocean SST (PSST) and the Climate Division Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) during 1950-2001. Although there is a positive correlation between Tmax and Tmin, the two variables exhibit somewhat different patterns and dynamics. Both exhibit their lowest levels of variability in summer, but that of Tmax is greater than Tmin. The predictability of Tmax is mainly associated with local effects related to previous soil moisture conditions at short range (one month to one season), with PSST providing a secondary influence. Predictability of Tmin is more strongly influenced by large-scale (PSST) patterns, with PDSI acting as a short-range predictive influence. For both predictand variables (Tmax and Tmin), the PDSI influence falls off markedly at time leads beyond a few months, but a PSST influence remains for at least two seasons. The maximum predictive skill for JJA Tmin, Tmax, and Tmax90 is from May PSST and PDSI. Importantly. skills evaluated for various seasons and time leads undergo a seasonal cycle that has maximum levels in summer. At the seasonal time frame, summer Tmax prediction skills are greatest in the Midwest, northern and central California, Arizona, and Utah. Similar results were found for Tmax90. In contrast, Tmin skill is spread over most of the western region, except for clusters of low skill in the northern Midwest and southern Montana, Idaho, and northern Arizona.

Ari, TB, Gershunov A, Tristan R, Cazelles B, Gage K, Stenseth NC.  2010.  Interannual variability of human plague occurrence in the western United States explained by tropical and North Pacific Ocean climate variability. American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. 83:624-632.   10.4269/ajtmh.2010.09-0775   AbstractWebsite

Plague is a vector-borne, highly virulent zoonotic disease caused by the bacterium Yersima pesos It persists in nature through transmission between its hosts (wild rodents) and vectors (fleas). During epizootics, the disease expands and spills over to other host species such as humans living in or close to affected areas Here, we investigate the effect of large-scale climate variability on the dynamics of human plague in the western United States using a 56-year time series of plague reports (1950-2005). We found that El Nino Southern Oscillation and Pacific Decadal Oscillation in combination affect the dynamics of human plague over the western United States. The underlying mechanism could involve changes in precipitation and temperatures that impact both hosts and vectors It is suggested that snow also may play a key role, possibly through its effects on summer soil moisture, which is known to be instrumental for flea survival and development and sustained growth of vegetation for rodents

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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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Cavanaugh, NR, Gershunov A, Panorska AK, Kozubowski TJ.  2015.  The probability distribution of intense daily precipitation. Geophysical Research Letters. 42:1560-1567.   10.1002/2015gl063238   AbstractWebsite

The probability tail structure of over 22,000 weather stations globally is examined in order to identify the physically and mathematically consistent distribution type for modeling the probability of intense daily precipitation and extremes. Results indicate that when aggregating data annually, most locations are to be considered heavy tailed with statistical significance. When aggregating data by season, it becomes evident that the thickness of the probability tail is related to the variability in precipitation causing events and thus that the fundamental cause of precipitation volatility is weather diversity. These results have both theoretical and practical implications for the modeling of high-frequency climate variability worldwide.

Cayan, DR, Das T, Pierce DW, Barnett TP, Tyree M, Gershunov A.  2010.  Future dryness in the southwest US and the hydrology of the early 21st century drought. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 107:21271-21276.   10.1073/pnas.0912391107   AbstractWebsite

Recently the Southwest has experienced a spate of dryness, which presents a challenge to the sustainability of current water use by human and natural systems in the region. In the Colorado River Basin, the early 21st century drought has been the most extreme in over a century of Colorado River flows, and might occur in any given century with probability of only 60%. However, hydrological model runs from downscaled Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment climate change simulations suggest that the region is likely to become drier and experience more severe droughts than this. In the latter half of the 21st century the models produced considerably greater drought activity, particularly in the Colorado River Basin, as judged from soil moisture anomalies and other hydrological measures. As in the historical record, most of the simulated extreme droughts build up and persist over many years. Durations of depleted soil moisture over the historical record ranged from 4 to 10 years, but in the 21st century simulations, some of the dry events persisted for 12 years or more. Summers during the observed early 21st century drought were remarkably warm, a feature also evident in many simulated droughts of the 21st century. These severe future droughts are aggravated by enhanced, globally warmed temperatures that reduce spring snowpack and late spring and summer soil moisture. As the climate continues to warm and soil moisture deficits accumulate beyond historical levels, the model simulations suggest that sustaining water supplies in parts of the Southwest will be a challenge.

Clemesha, RES, Gershunov A, Iacobellis SF, Cayan DR.  2017.  Daily variability of California coastal low cloudiness: A balancing act between stability and subsidence. Geophysical Research Letters. 44:3330-3338.   10.1002/2017gl073075   AbstractWebsite

We examine mechanisms driving daily variability of summer coastal low cloudiness (CLC) along the California coast. Daily CLC is derived from a satellite record from 1996 to 2014. Atmospheric rather than oceanic processes are mostly responsible for daily fluctuations in vertical stability that dictate short-period variation in CLC structure. Daily CLC anomalies are most strongly correlated to lower tropospheric stability anomalies to the north. The spatially offset nature of the cloud-stability relationship is a result of the balancing act that affects low cloudiness wherein subsidence drives increased stability, which promotes cloudiness, but too much subsidence limits cloudiness. Lay explanations claim that high inland temperatures pull in CLC, but such a process presumably would have the high temperatures directly inland. Rather, we find that the spatially offset associations between CLC and atmospheric circulation result in positive correlations between CLC and inland surface temperature anomalies to the north.

Clemesha, RES, Guirguis K, Gershunov A, Small IJ, Tardy A.  2018.  California heat waves: their spatial evolution, variation, and coastal modulation by low clouds. Climate Dynamics. 50:4285-4301.   10.1007/s00382-017-3875-7   AbstractWebsite

We examine the spatial and temporal evolution of heat waves through California and consider one of the key modulating factors of summertime coastal climate-coastal low cloudiness (CLC). Heat waves are defined relative to daytime maximum temperature (T-max) anomalies after removing local seasonality and capture unseasonably warm events during May-September. California is home to several diverse climate regions and characteristics of extreme heat events are also variable throughout these regions. Heat wave events tend to be shorter, but more anomalously intense along the coast. Heat waves typically impact both coastal and inland regions, although there is more propensity towards coastally trapped events. Most heat waves with a strong impact across regions start at the coast, proceed inland, and weaken at the coast before letting up inland. Typically, the beginning of coastal heat waves are associated with a loss of CLC, followed by a strong rebound of CLC starting close to the peak in heat wave intensity. The degree to which an inland heat wave is expressed at the coast is associated with the presence of these low clouds. Inland heat waves that have very little expression at the coast tend to have CLC present and an elevated inversion base height compared with other heat waves.

Clemesha, RES, Gershunov A, Iacobellis SF, Williams AP, Cayan DR.  2016.  The northward march of summer low cloudiness along the California coast. Geophysical Research Letters. 43:1287-1295.   10.1002/2015gl067081   AbstractWebsite

A new satellite-derived low cloud retrieval reveals rich spatial texture and coherent space-time propagation in summertime California coastal low cloudiness (CLC). Throughout the region, CLC is greatest during May-September but has considerable monthly variability within this summer season. On average, June is cloudiest along the coast of southern California and northern Baja, Mexico, while July is cloudiest along northern California's coast. Over the course of the summer, the core of peak CLC migrates northward along coastal California, reaching its northernmost extent in late July/early August, then recedes while weakening. The timing and movement of the CLC climatological structure is related to the summer evolution of lower tropospheric stability and both its component parts, sea surface temperature and potential temperature at 700hPa. The roughly coincident seasonal timing of peak CLC with peak summertime temperatures translates into the strongest heat-modulating capacity of CLC along California's north coast.

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Favre, A, Gershunov A.  2009.  North Pacific cyclonic and anticyclonic transients in a global warming context: possible consequences for Western North American daily precipitation and temperature extremes. Climate Dynamics. 32:969-987.   10.1007/s00382-008-0417-3   AbstractWebsite

Trajectories of surface cyclones and anticyclones were constructed using an automated scheme by tracking local minima and maxima of mean daily sea level pressure data in the NCEP-NCAR reanalysis and the Centre National de Recherches M,t,orologiques coupled global climate Model (CNRM-CM3) SRES A2 integration. Mid-latitude lows and highs traveling in the North Pacific were tracked and daily frequencies were gridded. Transient activity in the CNRM-CM3 historical simulation (1950-1999) was validated against reanalysis. The GCM correctly reproduces winter trajectories as well as mean geographical distributions of cyclones and anticyclones over the North Pacific in spite of a general under-estimation of cyclones' frequency. On inter-annual time scales, frequencies of cyclones and anticyclones vary in accordance with the Aleutian Low (AL) strength. When the AL is stronger (weaker), cyclones are more (less) numerous over the central and eastern North Pacific, while anticyclones are significantly less (more) numerous over this region. The action of transient cyclones and anticyclones over the central and eastern North Pacific determines seasonal climate over the West Coast of North America, and specifically, winter weather over California. Relationships between winter cyclone/anticyclone behavior and daily precipitation/cold temperature extremes over Western North America (the West) were examined and yielded two simple indices summarizing North Pacific transient activity relevant to regional climates. These indices are strongly related to the observed inter-annual variability of daily precipitation and cold temperature extremes over the West as well as to large scale seasonally averaged near surface climate conditions (e.g., air temperature at 2 m and wind at 10 m). In fact, they represent the synoptic links that accomplish the teleconnections. Comparison of patterns derived from NCEP-NCAR and CNRM-CM3 revealed that the model reproduces links between cyclone/anticyclone frequencies over the Northeastern Pacific and extra-tropical climate conditions but is deficient in relation to tropical climate variability. The connections between these synoptic indices and Western weather are well reproduced by the model. Under advanced global warming conditions, that is, the last half of the century, the model predicts a significant reduction of cyclonic transients throughout the mid-latitude North Pacific with the exception of the far northern and northeastern domains. Anticyclonic transients respond somewhat more regionally but consistently to strong greenhouse forcing, with notably fewer anticyclones over the Okhotsk/Kamchatka sector and generally more anticyclones in the Northeastern Pacific. These modifications of synoptic weather result in regional feedbacks, that is, regional synoptic alterations of the anthropogenic warming signal around the North Pacific. In the eastern Pacific, for example, synoptic feedbacks, having to do especially with the northward shift of the eastern Pacific storm-track (responding, in turn, to a weaker equator-to-pole temperature gradient), are favorable to more anticyclonic conditions off the American mid-latitude west coast and more cyclonic conditions at higher latitudes. These circulation feedbacks further reduce the equator-to-pole temperature gradient by favoring high-latitude mean winter warming especially over a broad wedge of the Arctic north of the Bering Sea and moderating the warming along the mid-latitude west coast of north America while also reducing precipitation frequencies from California to Northern Mexio.

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.

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Gershunov, A.  1998.  ENSO influence on intraseasonal extreme rainfall and temperature frequencies in the contiguous United States: Implications for long-range predictability. Journal of Climate. 11:3192-3203.   10.1175/1520-0442(1998)011<3192:eioier>2.0.co;2   AbstractWebsite

Potential ENSO-related predictability of wintertime daily extreme precipitation and temperature frequencies is investigated. This is done empirically using six decades of daily data at 168 stations distributed over the contiguous United States. ENSO sensitivity in the extreme ranges of intraseasonal precipitation and temperature probability density functions is demonstrated via a compositing technique. Potential predictability of extremes is then investigated with a simple statistical model. Given a perfect forecast of ENSO, the frequency of intraseasonal extremes is specified as the average frequency of occurrence during similar-phased ENSO winters on record. Specification skill is assessed as the cross-validated proportion of local variance explained by this method. The skill depends on varying ENSO sensitivity in different geographic regions and quantile ranges and on consistency or variability from one like-phased ENSO event to another. ENSO sensitivity also varies according to the intensity of the tropical forcing; however, not always in the expected sense. Good predictability is likely for variables and in regions displaying a strong and consistent ENSO signal. This is found in some coherent regions of the United States for various combinations of frequency variable and ENSO phase. ENSO-based predictability of heavy and extreme precipitation frequency is potentially good along the Gulf Coast, central plains, Southwest, and in the Ohio River valley for El Nino winters and in the Southwest and Florida for La Nina winters. Not all large magnitude signals translate into significant specification skill. Extreme precipitation frequency in the Southwest is a good example of this. Extreme warm temperature frequency (EWF) is potentially predictable in the southern and eastern United States during Fl Nino winters and in the Midwest during the strongest events. La Nina winters exhibit potentially very good EWF predictability in a Large area of the southern United States centered on Texas. Despite showing coherent ENSO patterns, extreme cold temperature frequency (ECF) signals are mostly weak and inconsistent, especially during strong ENSO events. Curiously, specification skill improves in the northern United States, along the West Coast and in the southeast during weaker El Nino winters. An improvement in potential ECF predictability is also observed in the Midwest during weaker La Nina winters.

Gershunov, A, Schneider N, Barnett T.  2001.  Low-frequency modulation of the ENSO-Indian monsoon rainfall relationship: Signal or noise? Journal of Climate. 14:2486-2492.   10.1175/1520-0442(2001)014<2486:lfmote>2.0.co;2   AbstractWebsite

Running correlations between pairs of stochastic time series are typically characterized by low-frequency evolution. This simple result of sampling variability holds for climate time series but is not often recognized for being merely noise. As an example, this paper discusses the historical connection between El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and average Indian rainfall (AIR). Decades of strong correlation (similar to -0.8) alternate with decades of insignificant correlation, and it is shown that this decadal modulation could be due solely to stochastic processes. In fact, the specific relationship between ENSO and AIR is significantly less variable on decadal timescales than should be expected from sampling variability alone.

Gershunov, A, Barnett T, Cayan D.  1999.  North Pacific interdecadal oscillation seen as factor in ENSO-related North American climate anomalies. EOS Trans. AGU. 80:25-30.   10.1029/99EO00019   Abstract

The North Pacific Oscillation (NPO) may be a significant factor in how El Niño and La Niña affect North American weather. A cold NPO phase indeed may have been partially responsible for the uncommon strength and stability of the El Niño-induced North American climate anomalies of early 1998. On the other hand, the latest La Niña excursion, if NPO persists in its cold phase, would likely produce weaker, less stable, and less predictable climate anomalies.It is well known that the effects of interannual tropical forcing, or El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) influences, penetrate into middle latitudes to produce particular forms of climate anomalies, such as the relatively well-predicted temperature and precipitation patterns over North America during the great El Niño of 1997–1998. Evidence is now mounting that this ENSO effect accentuates certain types of synoptic scale events, so that the likelihood of extreme events is biased above or below its climatological normal over broad regions. Observations show that these ENSO effects over the United States are also affected by the phases of decadal-scale climate states such as the North Pacific Oscillation (NPO).The NPO influence can be seen in both the seasonal aggregate of various ENSO patterns and the distribution of extreme daily events.

Gershunov, A, Barnett TP.  1998.  Interdecadal modulation of ENSO teleconnections. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. 79:2715-2725.   10.1175/1520-0477(1998)079<2715:imoet>2.0.co;2   AbstractWebsite

Seasonal climate anomalies over North America exhibit rather large variability between years characterized by the same ENSO phase. This lack of consistency reduces potential statistically based ENSO-related climate predictability. The authors show that the North Pacific oscillation (NPO) exerts a modulating effect on ENSO teleconnections. Sea lever pressure (SLP) data over the North Pacific, North America, and the North Atlantic and daily rainfall records in the contiguous United States are used to demonstrate that typical ENSO signals tend to be stronger and more stable during preferred phases of the NPO. Typical El Nino patterns (e.g., low pressure over the northeastern Pacific, dry northwest, and wet southwest, etc.) are strong and consistent only during the high phase of the NPO, which is associated with an anomalously cold northwestern Pacific. The generally reversed SLP and precipitation patterns during La Nina winters are consistent only during the low NPO phase. Climatic anomalies tend to be weak and spatially incoherent during low NPO-El Nino and high NPO-La Nina winters. These results suggest that confidence in ENSO-based long-range climate forecasts for North America should reflect interdecadal climatic anomalies in the North Pacific.

Gershunov, A, Guirguis K.  2012.  California heat waves in the present and future. Geophysical Research Letters. 39   10.1029/2012gl052979   AbstractWebsite

Current and projected heat waves are examined over California and its sub-regions in observations and downscaled global climate model (GCM) simulations. California heat wave activity falls into two distinct types: (1) typically dry daytime heat waves and (2) humid nighttime-accentuated events (Type I and Type II, respectively). The four GCMs considered project Type II heat waves to intensify more with climate change than the historically characteristic Type I events, although both types are projected to increase. This trend is already clearly observed and simulated to various degrees over all sub-regions of California. Part of the intensification in heat wave activity is due directly to mean warming. However, when one considers non-stationarity in daily temperature variance, desert heat waves are expected to become progressively and relatively less intense while coastal heat waves are projected to intensify even relative to the background warming. This result generally holds for both types of heat waves across models. Given the high coastal population density and low acclimatization to heat, especially humid heat, this trend bodes ill for coastal communities, jeopardizing public health and stressing energy resources. Citation: Gershunov, A., and K. Guirguis (2012), California heat waves in the present and future, Geophys. Res. Lett., 39, L18710, doi:10.1029/2012GL052979.

Gershunov, A, Shulgina T, Clemesha RES, Guirguis K, Pierce DW, Dettinger MD, Lavers DA, Cayan DR, Polade SD, Kalansky J, Ralph FM.  2019.  Precipitation regime change in Western North America: The role of atmospheric rivers. Scientific Reports. 9   10.1038/s41598-019-46169-w   AbstractWebsite

Daily precipitation in California has been projected to become less frequent even as precipitation extremes intensify, leading to uncertainty in the overall response to climate warming. Precipitation extremes are historically associated with Atmospheric Rivers (ARs). Sixteen global climate models are evaluated for realism in modeled historical AR behavior and contribution of the resulting daily precipitation to annual total precipitation over Western North America. The five most realistic models display consistent changes in future AR behavior, constraining the spread of the full ensemble. They, moreover, project increasing year-to-year variability of total annual precipitation, particularly over California, where change in total annual precipitation is not projected with confidence. Focusing on three representative river basins along the West Coast, we show that, while the decrease in precipitation frequency is mostly due to non-AR events, the increase in heavy and extreme precipitation is almost entirely due to ARs. This research demonstrates that examining meteorological causes of precipitation regime change can lead to better and more nuanced understanding of climate projections. It highlights the critical role of future changes in ARs to Western water resources, especially over California.

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.

Gershunov, A, Barnett TP, Cayan DR, Tubbs T, Goddard L.  2000.  Predicting and downscaling ENSO impacts on intraseasonal precipitation statistics in California: The 1997/98 event. Journal of Hydrometeorology. 1:201-210.   10.1175/1525-7541(2000)001<0201:padeio>2.0.co;2   AbstractWebsite

Three long-range forecasting methods have been evaluated for prediction and downscaling of seasonal and intraseasonal precipitation statistics in California. Full-statistical, hybrid-dynamical-statistical and full-dynamical approaches have been used to forecast Fl Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO)-related total precipitation, daily precipitation frequency, and average intensity anomalies during the January-March season. For El Nino winters, the hybrid approach emerges as the best performer, while La Nina forecasting skill is poor. The full-statistical forecasting method features reasonable forecasting skill for both La Nina and El Nino winters. The performance of the full-dynamical approach could not be evaluated as rigorously as that of the other two forecasting schemes. Although the full-dynamical forecasting approach is expected to outperform simpler forecasting schemes in the long run, evidence is presented to conclude that, at present, the full-dynamical forecasting approach is the least viable of the three, at least in California. The authors suggest that operational forecasting of any intraseasonal temperature, precipitation, or streamflow statistic derivable from the available-records is possible now for ENSO-extreme years.

Gershunov, A, Cayan DR, Iacobellis SF.  2009.  The great 2006 heat wave over California and Nevada: Signal of an increasing trend. Journal of Climate. 22:6181-6203.   10.1175/2009jcli2465.1   AbstractWebsite

Most of the great California-Nevada heat waves can be classified into primarily daytime or nighttime events depending on whether atmospheric conditions are dry or humid. A rash of nighttime-accentuated events in the last decade was punctuated by an unusually intense case in July 2006, which was the largest heat wave on record (1948-2006). Generally, there is a positive trend in heat wave activity over the entire region that is expressed most strongly and clearly in nighttime rather than daytime temperature extremes. This trend in nighttime heat wave activity has intensified markedly since the 1980s and especially since 2000. The two most recent nighttime heat waves were also strongly expressed in extreme daytime temperatures. Circulations associated with great regional heat waves advect hot air into the region. This air can be dry or moist, depending on whether a moisture source is available, causing heat waves to be expressed preferentially during day or night. A remote moisture source centered within a marine region west of Baja California has been increasing in prominence because of gradual sea surface warming and a related increase in atmospheric humidity. Adding to the very strong synoptic dynamics during the 2006 heat wave were a prolonged stream of moisture from this southwestern source and, despite the heightened humidity, an environment in which afternoon convection was suppressed, keeping cloudiness low and daytime temperatures high. The relative contributions of these factors and possible relations to global warming are discussed.

Gershunov, A, Roca R.  2004.  Coupling of latent heat flux and the greenhouse effect by large-scale tropical/subtropical dynamics diagnosed in a set of observations and model simulations. Climate Dynamics. 22:205-222.   10.1007/s00382-003-0376-7   AbstractWebsite

Coupled variability of the greenhouse effect (GH) and latent heat flux (LHF) over the tropical - subtropical oceans is described, summarized and compared in observations and a coupled ocean-atmosphere general circulation model (CGCM). Coupled seasonal and interannual modes account for much of the total variability in both GH and LHF. In both observations and model, seasonal coupled variability is locally 180degrees out-of-phase throughout the tropics. Moisture is brought into convergent/convective regions from remote source areas located partly in the opposite, non-convective hemisphere. On interannual time scales, the tropical Pacific GH in the ENSO region of largest interannual variance is 180degrees out of phase with local LHF in observations but in phase in the model. A local source of moisture is thus present in the model on interannual time scales while in observations, moisture is mostly advected from remote source regions. The latent cooling and radiative heating of the surface as manifested in the interplay of LHF and GH is an important determinant of the current climate. Moreover, the hydrodynamic processes involved in the GH-LHF interplay determine in large part the climate response to external perturbations mainly through influencing the water vapor feedback but also through their intimate connection to the hydrological cycle. The diagnostic process proposed here can be performed on other CGCMs. Similarly, it should be repeated using a number of observational latent heat flux datasets to account for the variability in the different satellite retrievals. A realistic CGCM could be used to further study these coupled dynamics in natural and anthropogenically altered climate conditions.

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.