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2017
Huss, M, Bookhagen B, Huggel C, Jacobsen D, Bradley RS, Clague JJ, Vuille M, Buytaert W, Cayan DR, Greenwood G, Mark BG, Milner AM, Weingartner R, Winder M.  2017.  Toward mountains without permanent snow and ice. Earths Future. 5:418-435.   10.1002/2016ef000514   AbstractWebsite

The cryosphere in mountain regions is rapidly declining, a trend that is expected to accelerate over the next several decades due to anthropogenic climate change. A cascade of effects will result, extending from mountains to lowlands with associated impacts on human livelihood, economy, and ecosystems. With rising air temperatures and increased radiative forcing, glaciers will become smaller and, in some cases, disappear, the area of frozen ground will diminish, the ratio of snow to rainfall will decrease, and the timing and magnitude of both maximum and minimum streamflow will change. These changes will affect erosion rates, sediment, and nutrient flux, and the biogeochemistry of rivers and proglacial lakes, all of which influence water quality, aquatic habitat, and biotic communities. Changes in the length of the growing season will allow low-elevation plants and animals to expand their ranges upward. Slope failures due to thawing alpine permafrost, and outburst floods from glacier-and moraine-dammed lakes will threaten downstream populations.Societies even well beyond the mountains depend on meltwater from glaciers and snow for drinking water supplies, irrigation, mining, hydropower, agriculture, and recreation. Here, we review and, where possible, quantify the impacts of anticipated climate change on the alpine cryosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere, and consider the implications for adaptation to a future of mountains without permanent snow and ice.

2016
Ralph, FM, Prather KA, Cayan D, Spackman JR, DeMott P, Dettinger M, Fairall C, Leung R, Rosenfeld D, Rutledge S, Waliser D, White AB, Cordeira J, Martin A, Helly J, Intrieri J.  2016.  CalWater field studies designed to quantify the roles of atmospheric rivers and aerosols in modulating US West Coast precipitation in a changing climate. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. 97:1209-1228.   10.1175/bams-d-14-00043.1   AbstractWebsite

The variability of precipitation and water supply along the U.S. West Coast creates major challenges to the region’s economy and environment, as evidenced by the recent California drought. This variability is strongly influenced by atmospheric rivers (ARs), which deliver much of the precipitation along the U.S. West Coast and can cause flooding, and by aerosols (from local sources and transported from remote continents and oceans) that modulate clouds and precipitation. A better understanding of these processes is needed to reduce uncertainties in weather predictions and climate projections of droughts and floods, both now and under changing climate conditions.To address these gaps, a group of meteorologists, hydrologists, climate scientists, atmospheric chemists, and oceanographers have created an interdisciplinary research effort, with support from multiple agencies. From 2009 to 2011 a series of field campaigns [California Water Service (CalWater) 1] collected atmospheric chemistry, cloud microphysics, and meteorological measurements in California and associated modeling and diagnostic studies were carried out. Based on the remaining gaps, a vision was developed to extend these studies offshore over the eastern North Pacific and to enhance land-based measurements from 2014 to 2018 (CalWater-2). The dataset and selected results from CalWater-1 are summarized here. The goals of CalWater-2, and measurements to date, are then described.CalWater is producing new findings and exploring new technologies to evaluate and improve global climate models and their regional performance and to develop tools supporting water and hydropower management. These advances also have potential to enhance hazard mitigation by improving near-term weather prediction and subseasonal and seasonal outlooks.

Yang, Y, Russell LM, Xu L, Lou SJ, Lamjiri MA, Somerville RCJ, Miller AJ, Cayan DR, DeFlorio MJ, Ghan SJ, Liu Y, Singh B, Wang HL, Yoon JH, Rasch PJ.  2016.  Impacts of ENSO events on cloud radiative effects in preindustrial conditions: Changes in cloud fraction and their dependence on interactive aerosol emissions and concentrations. Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres. 121:6321-6335.   10.1002/2015jd024503   AbstractWebsite

We use three 150 year preindustrial simulations of the Community Earth System Model to quantify the impacts of El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events on shortwave and longwave cloud radiative effects (CRESW and CRELW). Compared to recent observations from the Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System data set, the model simulation successfully reproduces larger variations of CRESW and CRELW over the tropics. The ENSO cycle is found to dominate interannual variations of cloud radiative effects. Simulated cooling (warming) effects from CRESW (CRELW) are strongest over the tropical western and central Pacific Ocean during warm ENSO events, with the largest difference between 20 and 60 W m(-2), with weaker effects of 10-40 W m(-2) over Indonesian regions and the subtropical Pacific Ocean. Sensitivity tests show that variations of cloud radiative effects are mainly driven by ENSO-related changes in cloud fraction. The variations in midlevel and high cloud fractions each account for approximately 20-50% of the interannual variations of CRESW over the tropics and almost all of the variations of CRELW between 60 degrees S and 60 degrees N. The variation of low cloud fraction contributes to most of the variations of CRESW over the midlatitude oceans. Variations in natural aerosol concentrations explained 10-30% of the variations of both CRESW and CRELW over the tropical Pacific, Indonesian regions, and the tropical Indian Ocean. Changes in natural aerosol emissions and concentrations enhance 3-5% and 1-3% of the variations of cloud radiative effects averaged over the tropics.

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.

2014
Rodo, X, Curcoll R, Robinson M, Ballester J, Burns JC, Cayan DR, Lipkin WI, Williams BL, Couto-Rodriguez M, Nakamura Y, Uehara R, Tanimoto H, Morgui JA.  2014.  Tropospheric winds from northeastern China carry the etiologic agent of Kawasaki disease from its source to Japan. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 111:7952-7957.   10.1073/pnas.1400380111   AbstractWebsite

Evidence indicates that the densely cultivated region of northeastern China acts as a source for the wind-borne agent of Kawasaki disease (KD). KD is an acute, coronary artery vasculitis of young children, and still a medical mystery after more than 40 y. We used residence times from simulations with the flexible particle dispersion model to pinpoint the source region for KD. Simulations were generated from locations spanning Japan from days with either high or low KD incidence. The postepidemic interval (1987-2010) and the extreme epidemics (1979, 1982, and 1986) pointed to the same source region. Results suggest a very short incubation period (<24 h) from exposure, thus making an infectious agent unlikely. Sampling campaigns over Japan during the KD season detected major differences in the microbiota of the tropospheric aerosols compared with ground aerosols, with the unexpected finding of the Candida species as the dominant fungus from aloft samples (54% of all fungal strains). These results, consistent with the Candida animal model for KD, provide support for the concept and feasibility of a windborne pathogen. A fungal toxin could be pursued as a possible etiologic agent of KD, consistent with an agricultural source, a short incubation time and synchronized outbreaks. Our study suggests that the causative agent of KD is a preformed toxin or environmental agent rather than an organism requiring replication. We propose a new paradigm whereby an idiosyncratic immune response, influenced by host genetics triggered by an environmental exposure carried on winds, results in the clinical syndrome known as acute KD.

Vano, JA, Udall B, Cayan DR, Overpeck JT, Brekke LD, Das T, Hartmann HC, Hidalgo HG, Hoerling M, McCabe GJ, Morino K, Webb RS, Werner K, Lettenmaier DP.  2014.  Understanding uncertainties in future Colorado River streamflow. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. 95:59-78.   10.1175/bams-d-12-00228.1   AbstractWebsite

The Colorado River is the primary water source for more than 30 million people in the United States and Mexico. Recent studies that project streamf low changes in the Colorado River all project annual declines, but the magnitude of the projected decreases range from less than 10% to 45% by the mid-twenty-first century. To understand these differences, we address the questions the management community has raised: Why is there such a wide range of projections of impacts of future climate change on Colorado River streamflow, and how should this uncertainty be interpreted? We identify four major sources of disparities among studies that arise from both methodological and model differences. In order of importance, these are differences in 1) the global climate models (GCMs) and emission scenarios used; 2) the ability of land surface and atmospheric models to simulate properly the high-elevation runoff source areas; 3) the sensitivities of land surface hydrology models to precipitation and temperature changes; and 4) the methods used to statistically downscale GCM scenarios. In accounting for these differences, there is substantial evidence across studies that future Colorado River streamflow will be reduced under the current trajectories of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions because of a combination of strong temperature-induced runoff curtailment and reduced annual precipitation. Reconstructions of preinstrumental streamflows provide additional insights; the greatest risk to Colorado River streamf lows is a multidecadal drought, like that observed in paleoreconstructions, exacerbated by a steady reduction in flows due to climate change. This could result in decades of sustained streamflows much lower than have been observed in the ~100 years of instrumental record.

2013
White, AB, Anderson ML, Dettinger MD, Ralph FM, Hinojosa A, Cayan DR, Hartman RK, Reynolds DW, Johnson LE, Schneider TL, Cifelli R, Toth Z, Gutman SI, King CW, Gehrke F, Johnston PE, Walls C, Mann D, Gottas DJ, Coleman T.  2013.  A twenty-first-century California observing network for monitoring extreme weather events. Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology. 30:1585-1603.   10.1175/jtech-d-12-00217.1   AbstractWebsite

During Northern Hemisphere winters, the West Coast of North America is battered by extratropical storms. The impact of these storms is of paramount concern to California, where aging water supply and flood protection infrastructures are challenged by increased standards for urban flood protection, an unusually variable weather regime, and projections of climate change. Additionally, there are inherent conflicts between releasing water to provide flood protection and storing water to meet requirements for the water supply, water quality, hydropower generation, water temperature and flow for at-risk species, and recreation. To improve reservoir management and meet the increasing demands on water, improved forecasts of precipitation, especially during extreme events, are required. Here, the authors describe how California is addressing their most important and costliest environmental issue-water management-in part, by installing a state-of-the-art observing system to better track the area's most severe wintertime storms.

Bromirski, PD, Cayan DR, Helly J, Wittmann P.  2013.  Wave power variability and trends across the North Pacific. Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans. 118:6329-6348.   10.1002/2013jc009189   AbstractWebsite

Multiyear climate variations influence North Pacific storm intensity and resultant variations in wave energy levels. The timing of these decadal fluctuations and strong El Nino's have had a strong influence on long-term trends. Here we investigate variations in the North Pacific wave power, P-W, determined from WAVEWATCH III (WW3) wave model significant wave height, Hs, and peak period data forced by NRA-1 winds spanning the 1948-2008 epoch. Over the entire hindcast, upward trends in Hs and P-W, especially in winter, are observed over much of the North Pacific, strongly influenced by an apparent storm intensification after the mid-1970s regime shift. Heightened P-W is concentrated in particular regions of the basin, and is associated with increased wave activity during the warm phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO). Wave power events, P-E, defined as episodes when Hs exceeded the 90th percentile threshold for at least 12 h, exhibit significant upward trends along much of the U.S. Pacific coast during winter months. Importantly, the hindcast exhibits a recent decrease in P-W across much of the North Pacific, in contrast to the long-term increase of P-W and Hs. This recent decrease is associated with the prevalent PDO cool phase that developed after the late 1990s. Variability and intensification of coastal P-W and P-E have important practical implications for shoreline and beach erosion, coastal wetlands inundation, storm-surge flooding, and coastal planning. These considerations will become increasingly important as sea level rises.

2012
Brooks, BA, Bawden G, Manjunath D, Werner C, Knowles N, Foster J, Dudas J, Cayan D.  2012.  Contemporaneous Subsidence and Levee Overtopping Potential, Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, California. San Francisco Estuary and Watershed Science. 10 AbstractWebsite

The levee system in California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta helps protect freshwater quality in a critical estuarine ecosystem that hosts substantial agricultural infrastructure and a large human population. We use space-based synthetic aperture radar interferometry (InSAR) to provide synoptic vertical land motion measurements of the Delta and levee system from 1995 to 2000. We find that Delta ground motion reflects seasonal hydrologic signals superimposed on average subsidence trends of 3-20 mm/yr. Because the measurements are insensitive to subsidence associated with peat thickness variations over Delta-island length scales, it is most likely that InSAR rates reflect underlying Quaternary sedimentary column compaction. We combine InSAR rates with sea-level rise scenarios to quantify 21st century levee overtopping potential. If left unmitigated, it is likely that 50 to 100 years from now much of the levee system will subside below design thresholds.

2011
Cloern, JE, Knowles N, Brown LR, Cayan D, Dettinger MD, Morgan TL, Schoellhamer DH, Stacey MT, van der Wegen M, Wagner RW, Jassby AD.  2011.  Projected evolution of California's San Francisco Bay-Delta-River System in a century of climate change. Plos One. 6   10.1371/journal.pone.0024465   AbstractWebsite

Background: Accumulating evidence shows that the planet is warming as a response to human emissions of greenhouse gases. Strategies of adaptation to climate change will require quantitative projections of how altered regional patterns of temperature, precipitation and sea level could cascade to provoke local impacts such as modified water supplies, increasing risks of coastal flooding, and growing challenges to sustainability of native species. Methodology/Principal Findings: We linked a series of models to investigate responses of California's San Francisco Estuary-Watershed (SFEW) system to two contrasting scenarios of climate change. Model outputs for scenarios of fast and moderate warming are presented as 2010-2099 projections of nine indicators of changing climate, hydrology and habitat quality. Trends of these indicators measure rates of: increasing air and water temperatures, salinity and sea level; decreasing precipitation, runoff, snowmelt contribution to runoff, and suspended sediment concentrations; and increasing frequency of extreme environmental conditions such as water temperatures and sea level beyond the ranges of historical observations. Conclusions/Significance: Most of these environmental indicators change substantially over the 21(st) century, and many would present challenges to natural and managed systems. Adaptations to these changes will require flexible planning to cope with growing risks to humans and the challenges of meeting demands for fresh water and sustaining native biota. Programs of ecosystem rehabilitation and biodiversity conservation in coastal landscapes will be most likely to meet their objectives if they are designed from considerations that include: (1) an integrated perspective that river-estuary systems are influenced by effects of climate change operating on both watersheds and oceans; (2) varying sensitivity among environmental indicators to the uncertainty of future climates; (3) inevitability of biological community changes as responses to cumulative effects of climate change and other drivers of habitat transformations; and (4) anticipation and adaptation to the growing probability of ecosystem regime shifts.

Pan, LL, Chen SH, Cayan D, Lin MY, Hart Q, Zhang MH, Liu YB, Wang JZ.  2011.  Influences of climate change on California and Nevada regions revealed by a high-resolution dynamical downscaling study. Climate Dynamics. 37:2005-2020.   10.1007/s00382-010-0961-5   AbstractWebsite

In this study, the influence of climate change to California and Nevada regions was investigated through high-resolution (4-km grid spacing) dynamical downscaling using the WRF (Weather Research & Forecasting) model. The dynamical downscaling was performed to both the GFS (Global forecast model) reanalysis (called GFS-WRF runs) from 2000-2006 and PCM (Parallel Climate Model) simulations (called PCM-WRF runs) from 1997-2006 and 2047-2056. The downscaling results were first validated by comparing current model outputs with the observational analysis PRISM (Parameter-elevation Regressions on Independent Slopes Model) dataset. In general, the dominant features from GFS-WRF runs and PCM-WRF runs were consistent with each other, as well as with PRISM results. The influences of climate change on the California and Nevada regions can be inferred from the model future runs. The averaged temperature showed a positive trend in the future, as in other studies. The temperature increases by around 1-2A degrees C under the assumption of business as usual over 50 years. This leads to an upward shifting of the freezing level (the contour line of 0A degrees C temperature) and more rain instead of snow in winter (December, January, and February). More hot days (> 32.2A degrees C or 90A degrees F) and extreme hot days (> 37.8A degrees C or 100A degrees F) are predicted in the Sacramento Valley and the southern parts of California and Nevada during summer (June, July, and August). More precipitation is predicted in northern California but not in southern California. Rainfall frequency slightly increases in the coast regions, but not in the inland area. No obvious trend of the surface wind was indicated. The probability distribution functions (PDF) of daily temperature, wind and precipitation for California and Nevada showed no significant change in shape in either winter or summer. The spatial distributions of precipitation frequency from GFS-WRF and PCM-WRF were highly correlated (r = 0.83). However, overall positive shifts were seen in the temperature field; increases of 2A degrees C for California and 3A degrees C for Nevada in summer and 2.5A degrees C for California and 1.5A degrees C for Nevada in winter. The PDFs predicted higher precipitation in winter and lower precipitation in the summer for both California and Nevada.

2010
Bytnerowicz, A, Cayan D, Riggan P, Schilling S, Dawson P, Tyree M, Wolden L, Tissell R, Preisler H.  2010.  Analysis of the effects of combustion emissions and Santa Ana winds on ambient ozone during the October 2007 southern California wildfires. Atmospheric Environment. 44:678-687.   10.1016/j.atmosenv.2009.11.014   AbstractWebsite

Combustion emissions and strong Santa Ana winds had pronounced effects on patterns and levels of ambient ozone (O(3)) in southern California during the extensive wildland fires of October 2007. These changes are described in detail for a rural receptor site, the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve, located among large fires in San Diego and Orange counties. In addition, O(3) changes are also described for several other air quality monitoring sites in the general area of the fires. During the first phase of the fires, strong, dry and hot northeasterly Santa Ana winds brought into the area clean continental air masses, which resulted in minimal diurnal O(3) fluctuations and a 72-h average concentration of 36.8 ppb. During the- second phase of the fires, without Santa Ana winds present and air filled with smoke, daytime O(3) concentrations steadily increased and reached 95.2 ppb while the lowest nighttime levels returned to similar to 0 ppb. During that period the 8-h daytime average O(3) concentration reached 78.3 ppb, which exceeded the federal standard of 75 ppb. After six days of fires, O(3) diurnal concentrations returned to pre-fire patterns and levels. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

2009
Hidalgo, HG, Das T, Dettinger MD, Cayan DR, Pierce DW, Barnett TP, Bala G, Mirin A, Wood AW, Bonfils C, Santer BD, Nozawa T.  2009.  Detection and attribution of streamflow timing changes to climate change in the western United States. Journal of Climate. 22:3838-3855.   10.1175/2009jcli2470.1   AbstractWebsite

This article applies formal detection and attribution techniques to investigate the nature of observed shifts in the timing of streamflow in the western United States. Previous studies have shown that the snow hydrology of the western United States has changed in the second half of the twentieth century. Such changes manifest themselves in the form of more rain and less snow, in reductions in the snow water contents, and in earlier snowmelt and associated advances in streamflow "center'' timing (the day in the "water-year'' on average when half the water-year flow at a point has passed). However, with one exception over a more limited domain, no other study has attempted to formally attribute these changes to anthropogenic increases of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Using the observations together with a set of global climate model simulations and a hydrologic model (applied to three major hydrological regions of the western United States-the California region, the upper Colorado River basin, and the Columbia River basin), it is found that the observed trends toward earlier "center'' timing of snowmelt-driven streamflows in the western United States since 1950 are detectably different from natural variability (significant at the p < 0.05 level). Furthermore, the nonnatural parts of these changes can be attributed confidently to climate changes induced by anthropogenic greenhouse gases, aerosols, ozone, and land use. The signal from the Columbia dominates the analysis, and it is the only basin that showed a detectable signal when the analysis was performed on individual basins. It should be noted that although climate change is an important signal, other climatic processes have also contributed to the hydrologic variability of large basins in the western United States.

2008
Barnett, TP, Pierce DW, Hidalgo HG, Bonfils C, Santer BD, Das T, Bala G, Wood AW, Nozawa T, Mirin AA, Cayan DR, Dettinger MD.  2008.  Human-induced changes in the hydrology of the western United States. Science. 319:1080-1083.   10.1126/science.1152538   AbstractWebsite

Observations have shown that the hydrological cycle of the western United States changed significantly over the last half of the 20th century. We present a regional, multivariable climate change detection and attribution study, using a high- resolution hydrologic model forced by global climate models, focusing on the changes that have already affected this primarily arid region with a large and growing population. The results show that up to 60% of the climate- related trends of river flow, winter air temperature, and snow pack between 1950 and 1999 are human- induced. These results are robust to perturbation of study variates and methods. They portend, in conjunction with previous work, a coming crisis in water supply for the western United States.

Kueppers, LM, Snyder MA, Sloan LC, Cayan D, Jin J, Kanamaru H, Kanamitsu M, Miller NL, Tyree M, Due H, Weare B.  2008.  Seasonal temperature responses to land-use change in the western United States. Global and Planetary Change. 60:250-264.   10.1016/j.gloplacha.2007.03.005   AbstractWebsite

In the western United States, more than 79 000 km 2 has been converted to irrigated agriculture and urban areas. These changes have the potential to alter surface temperature by modifying the energy budget at the land-atmosphere interface. This study reports the seasonally varying temperature responses of four regional climate models (RCMs) - RSM, RegCM3, MM5-CLM3, and DRCM - to conversion of potential natural vegetation to modern land-cover and land-use over a 1-year period. Three of the RCMs supplemented soil moisture, producing large decreases in the August mean (- 1.4 to -3.1 degrees C) and maximum (-2.9 to -6.1 degrees C) 2-m air temperatures where natural vegetation was converted to irrigated agriculture. Conversion to irrigated agriculture also resulted in large increases in relative humidity (9% to 36% absolute change). Modeled changes in the August minimum 2-m air temperature were not as pronounced or consistent across the models. Converting natural vegetation to urban land-cover produced less pronounced temperature effects in all models, with the magnitude of the effect dependent upon the preexisting vegetation type and urban parameterizations. Overall, the RCM results indicate that the temperature impacts of land-use change are most pronounced during the summer months, when surface heating is strongest and differences in surface soil moisture between irrigated land and natural vegetation are largest. (c) 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Pierce, DW, Barnett TP, Hidalgo HG, Das T, Bonfils C, Santer BD, Bala G, Dettinger MD, Cayan DR, Mirin A, Wood AW, Nozawa T.  2008.  Attribution of declining western US snowpack to human effects. Journal of Climate. 21:6425-6444.   10.1175/2008jcli2405.1   AbstractWebsite

Observations show snowpack has declined across much of the western United States over the period 1950-99. This reduction has important social and economic implications, as water retained in the snowpack from winter storms forms an important part of the hydrological cycle and water supply in the region. A formal model-based detection and attribution (D-A) study of these reductions is performed. The detection variable is the ratio of 1 April snow water equivalent (SWE) to water-year-to-date precipitation (P), chosen to reduce the effect of P variability on the results. Estimates of natural internal climate variability are obtained from 1600 years of two control simulations performed with fully coupled ocean-atmosphere climate models. Estimates of the SWE/P response to anthropogenic greenhouse gases, ozone, and some aerosols are taken from multiple-member ensembles of perturbation experiments run with two models. The D-A shows the observations and anthropogenically forced models have greater SWE/P reductions than can be explained by natural internal climate variability alone. Model-estimated effects of changes in solar and volcanic forcing likewise do not explain the SWE/P reductions. The mean model estimate is that about half of the SWE/P reductions observed in the west from 1950 to 1999 are the result of climate changes forced by anthropogenic greenhouse gases, ozone, and aerosols.

Bonfils, C, Santer BD, Pierce DW, Hidalgo HG, Bala G, Das T, Barnett TP, Cayan DR, Doutriaux C, Wood AW, Mirin A, Nozawa T.  2008.  Detection and attribution of temperature changes in the mountainous western United States. Journal of Climate. 21:6404-6424.   10.1175/2008jcli2397.1   AbstractWebsite

Large changes in the hydrology of the western United States have been observed since the mid-twentieth century. These include a reduction in the amount of precipitation arriving as snow, a decline in snowpack at low and midelevations, and a shift toward earlier arrival of both snowmelt and the centroid (center of mass) of streamflows. To project future water supply reliability, it is crucial to obtain a better understanding of the underlying cause or causes for these changes. A regional warming is often posited as the cause of these changes without formal testing of different competitive explanations for the warming. In this study, a rigorous detection and attribution analysis is performed to determine the causes of the late winter/early spring changes in hydrologically relevant temperature variables over mountain ranges of the western United States. Natural internal climate variability, as estimated from two long control climate model simulations, is insufficient to explain the rapid increase in daily minimum and maximum temperatures, the sharp decline in frost days, and the rise in degree-days above 0 degrees C (a simple proxy for temperature-driven snowmelt). These observed changes are also inconsistent with the model-predicted responses to variability in solar irradiance and volcanic activity. The observations are consistent with climate simulations that include the combined effects of anthropogenic greenhouse gases and aerosols. It is found that, for each temperature variable considered, an anthropogenic signal is identifiable in observational fields. The results are robust to uncertainties in model-estimated fingerprints and natural variability noise, to the choice of statistical down-scaling method, and to various processing options in the detection and attribution method.

2006
Ralph, FM, Neiman PJ, Wick GA, Gutman SI, Dettinger MD, Cayan DR, White AB.  2006.  Flooding on California's Russian River: Role of atmospheric rivers. Geophysical Research Letters. 33   10.1029/2006gl026689   AbstractWebsite

[1] Experimental observations collected during meteorological field studies conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration near the Russian River of coastal northern California are combined with SSM/I satellite observations offshore to examine the role of landfalling atmospheric rivers in the creation of flooding. While recent studies have documented the characteristics and importance of narrow regions of strong meridional water vapor transport over the eastern Pacific Ocean (recently referred to as atmospheric rivers), this study describes their impact when they strike the U. S. West Coast. A detailed case study is presented, along with an assessment of all 7 floods on the Russian River since the experimental data were first available in October 1997. In all 7 floods, atmospheric river conditions were present and caused heavy rainfall through orographic precipitation. Not only do atmospheric rivers play a crucial role in the global water budget, they can also lead to heavy coastal rainfall and flooding, and thus represent a key phenomenon linking weather and climate.

Westerling, AL, Hidalgo HG, Cayan DR, Swetnam TW.  2006.  Warming and earlier spring increase western US forest wildfire activity. Science. 313:940-943.   10.1126/science.1128834   AbstractWebsite

Western United States forest wildfire activity is widely thought to have increased in recent decades, yet neither the extent of recent changes nor the degree to which climate may be driving regional changes in wildfire has been systematically documented. Much of the public and scientific discussion of changes in western United States wildfire has focused instead on the effects of 19th- and 20th-century land-use history. We compiled a comprehensive database of large wildfires in western United States forests since 1970 and compared it with hydroclimatic and land-surface data. Here, we show that large wildfire activity increased suddenly and markedly in the mid-1980s, with higher large-wildfire frequency, longer wildfire durations, and longer wildfire seasons. The greatest increases occurred in mid-elevation, Northern Rockies forests, where land-use histories have relatively little effect on fire risks and are strongly associated with increased spring and summer temperatures and an earlier spring snowmelt.

2005
White, WB, Cayan DR, Niiler PP, Moisan J, Lagerloef G, Bonjean F, Legler D.  2005.  The seasonal cycle of diabatic heat storage in the Pacific Ocean. Progress in Oceanography. 64:1-29.   10.1016/j.pocean.2004.06.012   AbstractWebsite

This study quantifies uncertainties in closing the seasonal cycle of diabatic heat storage (DHS) over the Pacific Ocean from 20 degrees S to 60 degrees N through the synthesis of World Ocean Circulation Experiment (WOCE) reanalysis products from 1993 to 1999. These products are DHS from Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO); near-surface geostrophic and Ekman currents from Earth and Space Research (ESR); and air-sea heat fluxes from Comprehensive Ocean-Atmosphere Data Set (COADS), National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP), and European Center for Mid-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF). With these products, we compute residual heat budget components by differencing long-term monthly means from the long-term annual mean. This allows the seasonal cycle of the DHS tendency to be modeled. Everywhere latent heat flux residuals dominate sensible heat flux residuals, shortwave heat flux residuals dominate longwave heat flux residuals, and residual Ekman heat advection dominates residual geostrophic heat advection, with residual dissipation significant only in the Kuroshio-Oyashio current extension. The root-mean-square (RMS) of the differences between observed and model residual DHS tendencies (averaged over 10 degrees latitude-by-20 degrees longitude boxes) is < 20 W m(-2) in the interior ocean and < 100 W m(-2) in the Kuroshio-Oyashio current extension. This reveals that the residual DHS tendency is driven everywhere by some mix of residual latent heat flux, shortwave heat flux, and Ekman heat advection. Suppressing bias errors in residual air-sea turbulent heat fluxes and Ekman heat advection through minimization of the RMS differences reduces the latter to < 10 W m(-2) over the interior ocean and < 25 W m(-2) in the Kuroshio-Oyashio current extension. This reveals air-sea temperature and specific humidity differences from in situ surface marine weather observations to be a principal source of bias error, overestimated over most of ocean but underestimated near the Intertropical Convergence Zone. (c) 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

2004
Westerling, AL, Cayan DR, Brown TJ, Hall B, Riddle LG.  2004.  Climate, Santa Ana winds and autumn wildfires in southern California. EOS Trans. AGU. 85:289. Abstract
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2003
Westerling, AL, Gershunov A, Brown TJ, Cayan DR, Dettinger MD.  2003.  Climate and wildfire in the western United States. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. 84:595-+.   10.1175/bams-84-5-595   AbstractWebsite

A 21-yr gridded monthly fire-starts and acres-burned dataset from U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, and Bureau of Indian Affairs fire reports recreates the seasonality and interannual variability of wildfire in the western United States. Despite pervasive human influence in western fire regimes, it is striking how strongly these data reveal a fire season responding to variations in climate. Correlating anomalous wildfire frequency and extent with the Palmer Drought Severity Index illustrates the importance of prior and accumulated precipitation anomalies for future wildfire season severity. This link to antecedent seasons' moisture conditions varies widely with differences in predominant fuel type. Furthermore, these data demonstrate that the relationship between wildfire season severity and observed moisture anomalies from antecedent seasons is strong enough to forecast fire season severity at lead times of one season to a year in advance.

White, WB, Dettinger MD, Cayan DR.  2003.  Sources of global warming of the upper ocean on decadal period scales. Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans. 108   10.1029/2002jc001396   AbstractWebsite

[1] Recent studies find global climate variability in the upper ocean and lower atmosphere during the twentieth century dominated by quasi-biennial, interannual, quasi-decadal and interdecadal signals. The quasi-decadal signal in upper ocean temperature undergoes global warming/cooling of - 0.1degreesC, similar to that occurring with the interannual signal (i. e., El Nino-Southern Oscillation), both signals dominated by global warming/cooling in the tropics. From the National Centers for Environmental Prediction troposphere reanalysis and Scripps Institution of Oceanography upper ocean temperature reanalysis we examine the quasi-decadal global tropical diabatic heat storage (DHS) budget from 1975 to 2000. We find the anomalous DHS warming tendency of 0.3-0.9 W m(-2) driven principally by a downward global tropical latent-plus-sensible heat flux anomaly into the ocean, overwhelming the tendency by weaker upward shortwave-minus-longwave heat flux anomaly to drive an anomalous DHS cooling tendency. During the peak quasidecadal warming the estimated dissipation of DHS anomaly of 0.2-0.5 W m(-2) into the deep ocean and a similar loss to the overlying atmosphere through air-sea heat flux anomaly are balanced by a decrease in the net poleward Ekman heat advection out of the tropics of 0.4-0.7 W m(-2). This scenario is nearly the opposite of that accounting for global tropical warming during the El Nino. These diagnostics confirm that even though the global quasi-decadal signal is phase-locked to the 11-year signal in the Sun's surface radiative forcing of -0.1 W m(-2), the anomalous global tropical DHS tendency cannot be driven by it directly.

2002
Westerling, AL, Gershunov A, Cayan DR, Barnett TP.  2002.  Long lead statistical forecasts of area burned in western US wildfires by ecosystem province. International Journal of Wildland Fire. 11:257-266.   10.1071/wf02009   AbstractWebsite

A statistical forecast methodology exploits large-scale patterns in monthly U.S. Climatological Division Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) values over a wide region and several seasons to predict area burned in western US. wildfires by ecosystem province a season in advance. The forecast model, which is based on canonical correlations, indicates that a few characteristic patterns determine predicted wildfire season area burned. Strong negative associations between anomalous soil moisture (inferred from PDSI) immediately prior to the fire season and area burned dominate in most higher elevation forested provinces, while strong positive associations between anomalous soil moisture a year prior to the fire season and area burned dominate in desert and shrub and grassland provinces. In much of the western US., above- and below-normal fire season forecasts were successful 57% of the time or better, as compared with a 33% skill for a random guess, and with a low probability of being surprised by a fire season at the opposite extreme of that forecast.

2001
Nemani, RR, White MA, Cayan DR, Jones GV, Running SW, Coughlan JC, Peterson DL.  2001.  Asymmetric warming over coastal California and its impact on the premium wine industry. Climate Research. 19:25-34.   10.3354/cr019025   AbstractWebsite

Climatic changes over coastal California from 1951 to 1997 may have benefited the premium wine industry, as seen in higher quality wines and larger grape yields. Observed temperature warming trends were asymmetric, with greatest warming at night and during spring. Warming was associated with large increases in eastern Pacific sea surface temperatures (SST) and amounts of atmospheric water vapor. Although the average annual temperature warming trend was modest (1.13degreesC/47 yr), there was a 20 d reduction in frost occurrence and a 65 d increase in frost-free growing season length. In the Napa and Sonoma valleys, warmer winter and spring temperatures advanced the start of the growing season by 18 to 24 d, and enhanced atmospheric water vapor resulted in a 7% reduction in evaporative demand. Given the strong coupling between Pacific SSTs and the coastal California climate, and because regional-scale SSTs persist for 6 to 12 mo, additional research may allow the possibility of predicting vintage quantity and quality from previous winter conditions.