Title

Interannual Variability of the Cyclonic Activity along the U.S. Pacific Coast: Influences on the Characteristics of Winter Precipitation in the Western United States

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2009

Abstract

This study examines the observed interannual variability of the cyclonic activity along the U.S. Pacific coast and quantifies its impact on the characteristics of both the winter total and extreme precipitation in the western United States. A cyclonic activity function (CAF) was derived from a dataset of objectively identified cyclone tracks in 27 winters (1979/80–2005/06). The leading empirical orthogonal function (EOF1) of the CAF was found to be responsible for the EOF1 of the winter precipitation in the western United States, which is a monopole mode centered over the Pacific Northwest and northern California. On the other hand, the EOF2 of the CAF contributes to the EOF2 of the winter precipitation, which indicates that above-normal precipitation in the Pacific Northwest and its immediate inland regions tends to be accompanied by below-normal precipitation in California and the southwestern United States and vice versa. The first two EOFs of CAF (precipitation) account for about 70% (78%) of the total interannual variance of CAF (precipitation). The second EOF modes of both the CAF and precipitation are significantly linked to the ENSO signal on interannual time scales. A composite analysis further reveals that the leading CAF modes increase (decrease) the winter total precipitation by increasing (decreasing) both the number of rainy days per winter and the extremeness of precipitation. The latter was quantified in terms of the 95th percentile of the daily rain rate and the probability of precipitation being heavy given a rainy day. The implications of the leading CAF modes for the water resources and the occurrence of extreme hydrologic events in the western United States, as well as their dynamical linkages to the Pacific storm track and various atmospheric low-frequency modes (i.e., teleconnection patterns), are also discussed.

Comments

This article was originally published in Journal of Climate, volume 22, in 2009. DOI: 10.1175/2009JCLI2889.1

Peer Reviewed

1

Copyright

© Copyright 2009 American Meteorological Society (AMS). Permission to use figures, tables, and brief excerpts from this work in scientific and educational works is hereby granted provided that the source is acknowledged. Any use of material in this work that is determined to be “fair use” under Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act September 2010 Page 2 or that satisfies the conditions specified in Section 108 of the U.S. Copyright Act (17 USC §108, as revised by P.L. 94-553) does not require the AMS’s permission. Republication, systematic reproduction, posting in electronic form, such as on a web site or in a searchable database, or other uses of this material, except as exempted by the above statement, requires written permission or a license from the AMS. Additional details are provided in the AMS Copyright Policy, available on the AMS Web site located at (http://www.ametsoc.org/) or from the AMS at 617-227-2425 or copyrights@ametsoc.org.