Dynamical and Thermodynamical Causes of Large-Scale Changes in the Hydrological Cycle over North America in Response to Global Warming

Seager, Richard; Neelin, J. David; Simpson, Isla R.; Liu, Haibo; Henderson, Naomi L.; Shaw, Tiffany Ann; Kushnir, Yochanan; Ting, Mingfang; Cook, Benjamin I.

The mechanisms of model-projected atmospheric moisture budget change across North America are examined in simulations conducted with 22 models from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project. Modern-day model budgets are validated against the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts Interim Re-Analysis. In the winter half year transient eddies converge moisture across the continent while the mean flow wets the west from central California northward and dries the southwest. In the summer half year there is widespread mean flow moisture divergence across the west and convergence over the Great Plains that is offset by transient eddy divergence. In the winter half year the models project drying for the southwest and wetting to the north. Changes in the mean flow moisture convergence are largely responsible across the west but intensified transient eddy moisture convergence wets the northeast. In the summer half year widespread declines in precipitation minus evaporation (P-E) are supported by mean flow moisture divergence across the west and transient eddy divergence in the Great Plains. The changes in mean flow convergence are related to increases in specific humidity but also depend on changes in the mean flow including increased low-level divergence in the U.S. Southwest and a zonally varying wave that wets the North American west and east coasts in winter and dries the U.S. Southwest. Increased transient eddy fluxes occur even as low-level eddy activity weakens and arise from strengthened humidity gradients. A full explanation of North American hydroclimate changes will require ex- planation of mean and transient circulation changes and the coupling between the moisture and circulation fields.

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Journal of Climate

More About This Work

Academic Units
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Ocean and Climate Physics
Published Here
July 16, 2021