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  1. Abstract

    Flash drought, characterized by unusually rapid drying, can have substantial impact on many socioeconomic sectors, particularly agriculture. However, potential changes to flash drought risk in a warming climate remain unknown. In this study, projected changes in flash drought frequency and cropland risk from flash drought are quantified using global climate model simulations. We find that flash drought occurrence is expected to increase globally among all scenarios, with the sharpest increases seen in scenarios with higher radiative forcing and greater fossil fuel usage. Flash drought risk over cropland is expected to increase globally, with the largest increases projected across North America (change in annual risk from 32% in 2015 to 49% in 2100) and Europe (32% to 53%) in the most extreme emissions scenario. Following low-end and medium scenarios compared to high-end scenarios indicates a notable reduction in annual flash drought risk over cropland.

  2. Abstract Observational evidence shows changes to North American weather regime occurrence depending on the strength of the lower-stratospheric polar vortex. However, it is not yet clear how this occurs or to what extent an improved stratospheric forecast would change regime predictions. Here we analyze four North American regimes at 500 hPa, constructed in principal component (PC) space. We consider both the location of the regimes in PC space and the linear regression between each PC and the lower-stratospheric zonal-mean winds, yielding a theory of which regime transitions are likely to occur due to changes in the lower stratosphere. Using a set of OpenIFS simulations, we then test the effect of relaxing the polar stratosphere to ERA-Interim on subseasonal regime predictions. The model start dates are selected based on particularly poor subseasonal regime predictions in the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts CY43R3 hindcasts. While the results show only a modest improvement to the number of accurate regime predictions, there is a substantial reduction in Euclidean distance error in PC space. The average movement of the forecasts within PC space is found to be consistent with expectation for moderate-to-large lower-stratospheric zonal wind perturbations. Overall, our results provide a framework for interpretingmore »the stratospheric influence on North American regime behavior. The results can be applied to subseasonal forecasts to understand how stratospheric uncertainty may affect regime predictions, and to diagnose which regime forecast errors are likely to be related to stratospheric errors. Significance Statement Predicting the weather several weeks ahead is a major challenge with large potential benefits to society. The strength of the circulation more than 10 km above the Arctic during winter (i.e., the polar vortex) is one source of predictability. This study investigates how forecast error and uncertainty in the polar vortex can impact predictions of large-scale weather patterns called “regimes” over North America. Through statistical analysis of observations and experiments with a weather forecast model, we develop an understanding of which regime changes are more likely to be due to changes in the polar vortex. The results will help forecasters and researchers understand the contribution of the stratosphere to changes in weather patterns, and in assessing and improving weather forecast models.« less
  3. Abstract

    The February 2021 cold air outbreak (CAO) was a high‐impact event in the South‐Central Plains of the United States. This study examines important precursors to the event that likely impacted its predictability in subseasonal forecasts. We use reanalysis to show that the CAO was facilitated by two distinct wave breaks—an East Siberian Sea anticyclonic wave break and a Labrador Sea cyclonic wave break. We also use European Center for Medium‐Range Weather Forecasts and National Center for Environmental Prediction subseasonal‐to‐seasonal models to investigate the impact of the wave breaks on the forecast skill of the event at a ∼2–3 weeks lead time. Ensemble members successfully simulating these features produce more negative temperature anomalies across the Great Plains, corresponding to better positioning of anomalous ridging. These results demonstrate that successfully simulating persistent anticyclones can improve central US extreme cold forecasts at long leads.

    Free, publicly-accessible full text available October 21, 2023
  4. Abstract

    Wintertime cold air outbreaks (CAOs) in the Great Plains of the United States have significant socioeconomic, environmental, and infrastructural impacts; the events of December 1983 and February 2021 are key examples of this. Previous studies have investigated CAOs in other parts of North America, particularly the eastern United States, but the development of CAOs in the Great Plains and their potential subseasonal-to-seasonal (S2S) predictability have yet to be assessed. This study first identifies 37 large-scale CAOs in the Great Plains between 1950 and 2021, before examining their characteristics, evolution, and driving mechanisms. These events occur under two dominant weather regimes at event onset: one set associated with anomalous ridging over Alaska and the other set associated with anomalous pan-Arctic ridging. Alaskan ridge CAOs evolve quickly (i.e., on synoptic time scales) and involve stratospheric wave reflection. Conversely, Arctic high CAOs are preceded by weak stratospheric polar vortex conditions several weeks prior to the event. Both categories of CAOs feature anomalous upward wave activity flux from Siberia, with downward wave activity flux over Canada seen only in the Alaskan ridge CAOs. The rapid development of the Alaskan ridge CAOs, also linked with a North Pacific wave train and anomalous wave activitymore »flux from the central Pacific, suggests that these events could be forced by tropical modes of variability. These findings present evidence that different forcing mechanisms, with contrasting time scales, may produce distinct sources of predictability for these CAOs on the S2S time scale.

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  5. Abstract Extreme precipitation across multiple time scales is a natural hazard that creates a significant risk to life, with a commensurately large cost through property loss. We devise a method to create 14-day extreme-event windows that characterize precipitation events in the contiguous United States (CONUS) for the years 1915–2018. Our algorithm imposes thresholds for both total precipitation and the duration of the precipitation to identify events with sufficient length to accentuate the synoptic and longer time scale contribution to the precipitation event. Kernel density estimation is employed to create extreme-event polygons that are formed into a database spanning from 1915 through 2018. Using the developed database, we clustered events into regions using a k -means algorithm. We define the “hybrid index,” a weighted composite of silhouette score and number of clustered events, to show that the optimal number of clusters is 15. We also show that 14-day extreme precipitation events are increasing in the CONUS, specifically in the Dakotas and much of New England. The algorithm presented in this work is designed to be sufficiently flexible to be extended to any desired number of days on the subseasonal-to-seasonal (S2S) time scale (e.g., 30 days). Additional databases generated using this frameworkmore »are available for download from our GitHub. Consequently, these S2S databases can be analyzed in future works to determine the climatology of S2S extreme precipitation events and be used for predictability studies for identified events.« less
  6. Abstract Landfalling tropical cyclones (TCs) often decay rapidly due to a decrease in moisture and energy fluxes over land when compared to the ocean surface. Occasionally, however, these cyclones maintain intensity or reintensify over land. Post-landfall maintenance and intensification of TCs over land may be a result of fluxes of moisture and energy derived from anomalously wet soils. These soils act similarly to a warm sea surface, in a phenomenon coined the “Brown Ocean Effect.” Tropical Storm (TS) Bill (2015) made landfall over a region previously moistened by anomalously heavy rainfall and displayed periods of reintensification and maintenance over land. This study evaluates the role of the Brown Ocean Effect on the observed maintenance and intensification of TS Bill using a combination of existing and novel approaches, including the evaluation of precursor conditions at varying temporal scales and making use of composite backward trajectories. Comparisons were made to landfalling TCs with similar paths that did not undergo TC maintenance and/or intensification (TCMI) as well as to TS Erin (2007), a known TCMI case. We show that the antecedent environment prior to TS Bill was similar to other known TCMI cases, but drastically different from the non-TCMI cases analyzed in thismore »study. Furthermore, we show that contributions of evapotranspiration to the overall water vapor budget were non-negligible prior to TCMI cases and that evapotranspiration along storm inflow was significantly (p<0.05) greater for TCMI cases than non-TCMI cases suggesting a potential upstream contribution from the land surface.« less
  7. Abstract

    Flash drought is characterized by a period of rapid drought intensification with impacts on agriculture, water resources, ecosystems, and the human environment. Addressing these challenges requires a fundamental understanding of flash drought occurrence. This study identifies global hotspots for flash drought from 1980–2015 via anomalies in evaporative stress and the standardized evaporative stress ratio. Flash drought hotspots exist over Brazil, the Sahel, the Great Rift Valley, and India, with notable local hotspots over the central United States, southwestern Russia, and northeastern China. Six of the fifteen study regions experienced a statistically significant increase in flash drought during 1980–2015. In contrast, three study regions witnessed a significant decline in flash drought frequency. Finally, the results illustrate that multiple pathways of research are needed to further our understanding of the regional drivers of flash drought and the complex interactions between flash drought and socioeconomic impacts.