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Twentieth-century atmospheric river activity along the west coasts of Europe and North America: algorithm formulation, reanalysis uncertainty and links to atmospheric circulation patterns

Revista: Climate Dynamics
Año: 2016  
Estado: En prensa
En este estado desde: 19 Mar 2016
Enlace al PDF: download of the draft version
DOI: 10.1007/s00382-016-3095-6

A new atmospheric-river detection and tracking scheme based on the magnitude and direction of integrated water vapour transport is presented and applied separately over 13 regions located along the west coasts of Europe (including North Africa) and North America. Four distinct reanalyses are considered, two of which cover the entire 20th-century: NOAA-CIRES Twentieth Century Reanalysis v2 (NOAA-20C) and ECMWF ERA-20C. Calculations are done separately for the OND and JFM-season and, for comparison with previous studies, for the ONDJFM-season as a whole. Comparing the AR-counts from NOAA-20C and ERA-20C with a running 31-year window looping through 1900-2010 reveals differences in the climatological mean and inter-annual variability which, at the start of the 20th-century, are much more pronounced in western North America than in Europe. Correlating European AR-counts with the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) reveals a pattern reminiscent of the well-know precipitation dipole which is stable throughout the entire century. A similar analysis linking western North American AR-counts to the North Pacific index (NPI) is hampered by the aforementioned poor reanalysis agreement at the start of the century. During the second half of the 20th-century, the strength of the NPI-link considerably varies with time in British Columbia and the Gulf of Alaska. Considering the period 1950-2010, AR-counts are then associated with other relevant large-scale circulation indices such as the East Atlantic, Scandinavian, Pacific-North American and West Pacific patterns (EA, SCAND, PNA and WP). Along the Atlantic coastline of the Iberian Peninsula and France, the EA-link is stronger than the NAO-link if the OND season is considered and the SCAND-link found in northern Europe is significant during both seasons. Along the west coast of North America, teleconnections are generally stronger during JFM in which case the NPI-link is significant in any of the five considered subregions, the PNA-link is significant in British Columbia and the Gulf of Alaska and the WP-link is so along the U.S. West Coast. During OND, these links are significant in the Gulf of Alaska only. If AR-counts are calculated upon persistent (instead of instantaneous) ARs, the link to the NAO weakens over the British Isles and western Iberia. For the experimental set-ups most closely mirroring those applied in Lavers et al (2012)and Ramos et al (2015), the NAO-links are completely or partly insignificant indicating that the inclusion of the persistence criterion notably alters the results. Visual support for the present study is provided by an exhaustive historical atmospheric river archive built at http://www.meteo.unican.es/atmospheric-rivers.

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