Publications

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2017
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.

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.

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.

2015
Guirguis, K, Gershunov A, Cayan DR.  2015.  Interannual variability in associations between seasonal climate, weather, and extremes: wintertime temperature over the Southwestern United States. Environmental Research Letters. 10   10.1088/1748-9326/10/12/124023   AbstractWebsite

Temperature variability in the Southwest US is investigated using skew-normal probability distribution functions (SN PDFs) fitted to observed wintertime daily maximum temperature records. These PDFs vary significantly between years, with important geographical differences in the relationship between the central tendency and tails, revealing differing linkages between weather and climate. The warmest and coldest extremes do not necessarily follow the distribution center. In some regions one tail of the distribution shows more variability than does the other. For example, in California the cold tail is more variable while the warm tail remains relatively stable, so warm years are associated with fewer cold extremes but not necessarily more warm extremes. The opposite relationship is seen in the Great Plains. Changes in temperature PDFs are conditioned by different phases of El Nino-La Nina (ENSO) and the Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO). In the Southern Great Plains, La Nina and/or negative PDO are associated with generally warmer conditions. However, in terms of extremes, while the warm tails become thicker and longer, the cool tails are not impacted-extremely warm days become more frequent but extremely cool days are not less frequent. In contrast, in coastal California, La Nina or negative PDO bring generally cooler conditions with more/stronger cold extremes but the warm extreme probability is not significantly affected. These results could have implications for global warming. If a rigid shift of the whole range occurs, then warm years are not necessarily a good analogue for a warmer climate. If global warming instead brings regional changes more aligned with a preferred state of dominant climate variability modes, then we may see asymmetric changes in the tails of local temperature PDFs.

Bromirski, PD, Cayan DR.  2015.  Wave power variability and trends across the North Atlantic influenced by decadal climate patterns. Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans. 120:3419-3443.   10.1002/2014jc010440   AbstractWebsite

Climate variations influence North Atlantic winter storm intensity and resultant variations in wave energy levels. A 60 year hindcast allows investigation of the influence of decadal climate variability on long-term trends of North Atlantic wave power, P-W, spanning the 1948-2008 epoch. P-W variations over much of the eastern North Atlantic are strongly influenced by the fluctuating North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) atmospheric circulation pattern, consistent with previous studies of significant wave height, Hs. Wave activity in the western Atlantic also responds to fluctuations in Pacific climate modes, including the Pacific North American (PNA) pattern and the El Nino/Southern Oscillation. The magnitude of upward long-term trends during winter over the northeast Atlantic is strongly influenced by heightened storm activity under the extreme positive phase of winter NAO in the early 1990s. In contrast, P-W along the United States East Coast shows no increasing trend, with wave activity there most closely associated with the PNA. Strong wave power events exhibit significant upward trends along the Atlantic coasts of Iceland and Europe during winter months. Importantly, in opposition to the long-term increase of P-W, a recent general decrease in P-W across the North Atlantic from 2000 to 2008 occurred. The 2000-2008 decrease was associated with a general shift of winter NAO to its negative phase, underscoring the control exerted by fluctuating North Atlantic atmospheric circulation on P-W trends.

2014
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.

2013
DeFlorio, MJ, Pierce DW, Cayan DR, Miller AJ.  2013.  Western US extreme precipitation events and their relation to ENSO and PDO in CCSM4. Journal of Climate. 26:4231-4243.   10.1175/jcli-d-12-00257.1   AbstractWebsite

Water resources and management over the western United States are heavily impacted by both local climate variability and the teleconnected responses of precipitation to the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO). In this work, regional precipitation patterns over the western United States and linkages to ENSO and the PDO are analyzed using output from a Community Climate System Model version 4 (CCSM4) preindustrial control run and observations, with emphasis on extreme precipitation events. CCSM4 produces realistic zonal gradients in precipitation intensity and duration over the western United States, with higher values on the windward side of the Cascade Mountains and Sierra Nevada and lower values on the leeward. Compared to its predecessor CCSM3, CCSM4 shows an improved teleconnected signal of both ENSO and the PDO to large-scale circulation patterns over the Pacific-North America region and also to the spatial pattern and other aspects of western U.S. precipitation. The so-called drizzle problem persists in CCSM4 but is significantly improved compared to CCSM3. In particular, it is found that CCSM4 has substantially less precipitation duration bias than is present in CCSM3. Both the overall and extreme intensity of wintertime precipitation over the western United States show statistically significant linkages with ENSO and PDO in CCSM4. This analysis provides a basis for future studies using greenhouse gas (GHG)-forced CCSM4 runs.

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.

Cayan, DR, Kammerdiener SA, Dettinger MD, Caprio JM, Peterson DH.  2001.  Changes in the onset of spring in the western United States. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. 82:399-415.   10.1175/1520-0477(2001)082<0399:citoos>2.3.co;2   AbstractWebsite

Fluctuations in spring climate in the western United States over the last 4-5 decades are described by examining changes in the blooming of plants and the timing of snowmelt-runoff pulses. The two measures of spring's onset that are employed are the timing of first bloom of lilac and honeysuckle bushes from a long-term cooperative phenological network, and the timing of the first major pulse of snowmelt recorded from high-elevation streams. Both measures contain year-to-year fluctuations, with typical year-to year fluctuations at a given site of one to three weeks. These fluctuations are spatially coherent, forming regional patterns that cover most of the west. Fluctuations in lilac first bloom dates are highly correlated to those of honeysuckle, and both are significantly correlated with those of the spring snowmelt pulse. Each of these measures, then, probably respond to a common mechanism. Various analyses indicate that anomalous temperature exerts the greatest influence upon both interannual and secular changes in the onset of spring in these networks. Earlier spring onsets since the late 1970s are a remarkable feature of the records, and reflect the unusual spell of warmer-than-normal springs in western North America during this period. The warm episodes are clearly related to larger-scale atmospheric conditions across North America and the North Pacific, but whether this is predominantly an expression of natural variability or also a symptom of global warming is not certain.

1999
Weinheimer, AL, Kennett JP, Cayan DR.  1999.  Recent increase in surface-water stability during warming off California as recorded in marine sediments. Geology. 27:1019-1022.   10.1130/0091-7613(1999)027<1019:riisws>2.3.co;2   AbstractWebsite

Warming of surface waters in the California Current since the 1950s has coincided with a significant decline in zooplankton volume. This has been attributed to reduced upwelling of nutrient-rich waters caused by increased thermal stratification across the thermocline. Proxy microfossil evidence preserved in the Santa Barbara Basin suggests that stability increased early in the 1900s, intensified after the early 1940s, and became well established by 1960. Accumulation of up-welled radiolarians in the basin has steadily declined since 1900, while oxygen isotopes in surface-dwelling planktonic foraminifera reflect increasing surface temperatures. Comparison of the delta(18)O records between surface and thermocline-dwelling planktonic foraminifera reveals that the temperature difference between surface and thermocline water has increased during the twentieth century. Instrumental records of surface and thermocline temperatures, monitored since 1950, support these results. This evidence suggests that relaxation of North Pacific anticyclonic gyre circulation deepened isopycnics, causing onshore movement of warmer, less saline waters and reduced upwelling of cool, nutrient-rich waters.

1998
Cayan, DR, Dettinger MD, Diaz HF, Graham NE.  1998.  Decadal variability of precipitation over western North America. Journal of Climate. 11:3148-3166.   10.1175/1520-0442(1998)011<3148:dvopow>2.0.co;2   AbstractWebsite

Decadal (>7- yr period) variations of precipitation over western North America account for 20%-50% of the variance of annual precipitation. Spatially, the decadal variability is broken into several regional [O(1000 km)] components. These decadal variations are contributed by fluctuations in precipitation from seasons of the year that vary from region to region and that are not necessarily concentrated in the wettest season(s) alone. The precipitation variations are linked to various decadal atmospheric circulation and SST anomaly patterns where scales range from regional to global scales and that emphasize tropical or extratropical connections, depending upon which precipitation region is considered. Further, wet or dry decades are associated with changes in frequency of at least a few shea-period circulation "modes" such as the pacific-North American pattern. precipitation fluctuations over the southwestern United States and the Saskatchewan region of western Canada are associated with extensive shifts of sea level pressure and SST anomalies, suggesting that they are components of low-frequency precipitation variability from global-scale climate processes. Consistent with the global scale of its pressure and SST connection, the Southwest decadal precipitation is aligned with opposing precipitation fluctuations in northern Africa.

Dettinger, MD, Cayan DR, Diaz HF, Meko DM.  1998.  North-south precipitation patterns in western North America on interannual-to-decadal timescales. Journal of Climate. 11:3095-3111.   10.1175/1520-0442(1998)011<3095:nsppiw>2.0.co;2   AbstractWebsite

The overall amount of precipitation deposited along the West Coast and western cordillera of North America from 25 degrees to 55 degrees N varies from year to year, and superimposed on this domain-average variability are varying north-south contrasts on timescales from at least interannual to interdecadal. In order to better understand the north-south precipitation contrasts, their interannual and decadal variations are studied in terms of how much they affect overall precipitation amounts and how they are related to large-scale climatic patterns. Spatial empirical orthogonal functions (EOFs) and spatial moments (domain average, central latitude, and latitudinal spread) of zonally averaged precipitation anomalies along the westernmost parts of North America are analyzed, and each is correlated with global sea level pressure (SLP) and sea surface temperature series, on interannual (defined here as 3-7 yr) and decadal (>7 yr) timescales. The interannual band considered here corresponds to timescales that are particularly strong in tropical climate variations and thus is expected to contain much precipitation variability that is related to El Nino-Southern Oscillation; the decadal scale is defined so as to capture the whole range of long-term climatic variations affecting western North America. Zonal EOFs of the interannual and decadal filtered versions of the zonal-precipitation series are remarkably similar. At both timescales, two leading EOFs describe I) a north-south seesaw of precipitation pivoting near 40 degrees N and 2) variations in precipitation near 40 degrees N, respectively. The amount of overall precipitation variability is only about 10% of the mean and is largely determined by precipitation variations around 40 degrees-45 degrees N and most consistently influenced by nearby circulation patterns; in this sense, domain-average precipitation is closely related to the second EOF. The central latitude and latitudinal spread of precipitation distributions are strongly influenced by precipitation variations in the southern parts of western North America and are closely related to the first EOF Central latitude of precipitation moves south (north) with tropical warming (cooling) in association with midlatitude western Pacific SLP variations, on both interannual and decadal timescales. Regional patterns and zonal averages of precipitation-sensitive tree-ring series are used to corroborate these patterns and to extend them into the past and appear to share much long- and short-term information with the instrumentally based zonal precipitation EOFs and moments.

1997
Miller, AJ, White WB, Cayan DR.  1997.  North Pacific thermocline variations on ENSO timescales. Journal of Physical Oceanography. 27:2023-2039.   10.1175/1520-0485(1997)027<2023:nptvoe>2.0.co;2   AbstractWebsite

The North Pacific thermocline (250 to 400 m) is studied using XBT observations acquired during the 1970s and 1980s. Interannual variations (3-5 yr timescales) in thermocline temperature, with O(0.1 degrees C) amplitude at 400 m, are found to exhibit westward propagation throughout the extratropical North Pacific up to 45 degrees N. Southward of 30 degrees N, the features propagate intact across the basin from the eastern boundary to the western boundary. Northward of 30 degrees N, the features can be observed to propagate only as far as the date line. The observed midlatitude thermocline anomalies are often related to tropical ENSO events in that they occur most strongly after the development of tropical El Nino or La Nina conditions and propagate westward from near the eastern boundary in the midlatitudes. But it is found that the observed midlatitude thermocline anomalies have larger phase speeds than theoretically predicted free baroclinic Rossby waves. Also, the observed anomalies have larger wavelength and faster propagation speeds than baroclinic Rossby waves that radiate from coastal Kelvin-like waves near the eastern boundary in well-known high-resolution models. Large-scale thermocline fluctuations that have spatial scale and phase speeds similar to the observations are also found in a coarse-resolution model of the Pacific Ocean forced by observed wind and heat Aux anomalies over the 1970-88 period. In the midlatitudes, north of 30 degrees N, large-scale Ekman pumping by interannual wind stress curl variations provides a significant driving mechanism for the modeled large-scale thermocline anomalies. The modeled ocean response is a combination of the static thermocline response to large-scale Ekman pumping plus a train of westward traveling Rossby waves, which accounts for part of the propagating temperature fluctuations. A tropical, remotely forced component is prominant near the eastern boundary, but this only contributes weakly in the model open ocean.