Forced response and internal variability of summer climate over western North America

Abstract

Over the past decade, anomalously hot summers and persistent droughts frequented over the western United States (wUS), the condition similar to the 1950s and 1960s. While atmospheric internal variability is important for mid-latitude interannual climate variability, it has been suggested that anthropogenic external forcing and multidecadal modes of variability in sea surface temperature, namely, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) and Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO), also affect the occurrence of droughts and hot summers. In this study, 100-member ensemble simulations for 1951–2010 by an atmospheric general circulation model were used to explore relative contributions of anthropogenic warming, atmospheric internal variability, and atmospheric response to PDO and AMO to the decadal anomalies over the wUS. By comparing historical and sensitivity simulations driven by observed sea surface temperature, sea ice, historical forcing agents, and non-warming counterfactual climate forcing, we found that large portions of recent increases in mean temperature and frequency of hot summers (66 and 82 %) over the wUS can be attributed to the anthropogenic global warming. In contrast, multidecadal change in the wUS precipitation is explained by a combination of the negative PDO and the positive AMO after the 2000s. Diagnostics using a linear baroclinic model indicate that AMO- and PDO-related diabatic heating anomalies over the tropics contribute to the anomalous atmospheric circulation associated with the droughts and hot summers over wUS on multidecadal timescale. Those anomalies are not robust during the periods when PDO and AMO are in phase. The prolonged PDO–AMO antiphase period since the late twentieth century resulted in the substantial component of multidecadal anomalies in temperature and precipitation over the wUS.

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Acknowledgments

The authors thank anonymous reviewers for giving us constructive comments. This work was supported by the Program for Risk Information on Climate Change (SOUSEI program) and the Data Integration and Analysis System (DIAS) sponsored by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), Japan. The Earth Simulator was used to develop the d4PDF ensemble dataset as “Strategic Project with Special Support” of JAMSTEC. The d4PDF dataset is available via DIAS website (http://dias-dss.tkl.iis.u-tokyo.ac.jp/ddc/viewer?ds=d4PDF_GCM&lang=en).

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Correspondence to Youichi Kamae.

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Kamae, Y., Shiogama, H., Imada, Y. et al. Forced response and internal variability of summer climate over western North America. Clim Dyn 49, 403–417 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00382-016-3350-x

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Keywords

  • Global warming hiatus
  • PDO
  • AMO
  • Hot summers
  • Linear baroclinic model