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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.

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.

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.

Bromirski, PD, Cayan DR, Flick RE.  2005.  Wave spectral energy variability in the northeast Pacific. Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans. 110   10.1029/2004jc002398   AbstractWebsite

The dominant characteristics of wave energy variability in the eastern North Pacific are described from NOAA National Data Buoy Center ( NDBC) buoy data collected from 1981 to 2003. Ten buoys at distributed locations were selected for comparison based on record duration and data continuity. Long- period ( LP) [ T > 12] s, intermediate- period [ 6 <= T <= 12] s, and short- period [ T < 6] s wave spectral energy components are considered separately. Empirical orthogonal function ( EOF) analyses of monthly wave energy anomalies reveal that all three wave energy components exhibit similar patterns of spatial variability. The dominant mode represents coherent heightened ( or diminished) wave energy along the West Coast from Alaska to southern California, as indicated by composites of the 700 hPa height field. The second EOF mode reveals a distinct El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO)-associated spatial distribution of wave energy, which occurs when the North Pacific storm track is extended unusually far south or has receded to the north. Monthly means and principal components (PCs) of wave energy levels indicate that the 1997 - 1998 El Nino- winter had the highest basin- wide wave energy within this record, substantially higher than the 1982 - 1983 El Nino. An increasing trend in the dominant PC of LP wave energy suggests that storminess has increased in the northeast Pacific since 1980. This trend is emphasized at central eastern North Pacific locations. Patterns of storminess variability are consistent with increasing activity in the central North Pacific as well as the tendency for more extreme waves in the south during El Nino episodes and in the north during La Nina.

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.

Miller, AJ, Cayan DR, White WB.  1998.  A westward-intensified decadal change in the North Pacific thermocline and gyre-scale circulation. Journal of Climate. 11:3112-3127.   10.1175/1520-0442(1998)011<3112:awidci>2.0.co;2   AbstractWebsite

From the early 1970s to the mid-1980s, the main thermocline of the subarctic gyre of the North Pacific Ocean shoaled with temperatures at 200-400-m depth cooling by 1 degrees-4 degrees C over the region. The gyre-scale structure of the shoaling is quasi-stationary and intensified in the western part of the basin north of 30 degrees N, suggesting concurrent changes in gyre-scale transport. A similar quasi-stationary cooling in the subtropical gyre south of 25 degrees N is also observed but lags the subpolar change by several years. To explore the physics of these changes, the authors examine an ocean model forced by observed wind stress and heat flux anomalies from 1970-88 in which they find similar changes in gyre-scale thermocline structure. The model current fields reveal that the North Pacific subpolar and subtropical gyres strengthened by roughly 10% from the 1970s to the 1980s. The bulk of the eastward Row of the model Kuroshio-Oyashio Extension returned westward via the subpolar gyre circuit, while the subtropical gyre return flow along 20 degrees N lags the subpolar changes by several years. The authors demonstrate that the model thermocline cooling and increased transport occurred in response to decadal-scale changes in basin-scale wind stress curl with the quasi-stationary oceanic response being in a time-dependent quasi-Sverdrup balance over much of the basin east of the date line. This wind stress curl driven response is quasi-stationary but occurs in conjunction with a propagating temperature anomaly associated with subduction in the central North Pacific that links the subpolar and subtropical gyre stationary changes and gives the appearance of circumgyre propagation. Different physics evidently controls the decadal subsurface temperature signal in different parts of the extratropical North Pacific.

Dettinger, M, Redmond K, Cayan D.  2004.  Winter orographic precipitation ratios in the Sierra Nevada: Large-scale atmospheric circulations and hydrologic consequences. Journal of Hydrometeorology. 5:1102-1116.   10.1175/jhm-390.1   AbstractWebsite

The extent to which winter precipitation is orographically enhanced within the Sierra Nevada of California varies from storm to storm, and season to season, from occasions when precipitation rates at low and high altitudes are almost the same to instances when precipitation rates at middle elevations ( considered here) can be as much as 30 times more than at the base of the range. Analyses of large-scale conditions associated with orographic precipitation variations during storms and seasons from 1954 to 1999 show that strongly orographic storms most commonly have winds that transport water vapor across the range from a more nearly westerly direction than during less orographic storms and than during the largest overall storms, and generally the strongly orographic storms are less convectively stable. Strongly orographic conditions often follow heavy precipitation events because both of these wind conditions are present in midlatitude cyclones that form the cores of many Sierra Nevada storms. Storms during La Nina winters tend to yield larger orographic ratios (ORs) than do those during El Ninos. A simple experiment with a model of streamflows from a river basin draining the central Sierra Nevada indicates that, for a fixed overall basin-precipitation amount, a decrease in OR contributes to larger winter flood peaks and smaller springtime flows, and thus to an overall hastening of the runoff season.