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It is reported herein that the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), which has been known to directly affect winter weather conditions in western Europe and the eastern United States, is also linked to surface air temperature over the broad southwestern U.S. (SWUS) region, encompassing California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado, in the early warm season. The authors have performed monthly time-scale correlations and composite analyses using three different multidecadal temperature datasets. Results from these analyses reveal that NAO-related upstream circulation positively affects not only the means, but also the extremes, of the daily maximum and minimum temperatures in the SWUS. This NAO effect is primarily linked with the positioning of upper-tropospheric anticyclones over the western United States that are associated with development of the positive NAO phase through changes in lower-tropospheric wind directions as well as suppression of precipitation and enhanced shortwave radiation at the surface. The effect is observed in the SWUS only during the March–June period because the monthly migration of anticyclones over the western United States follows the migration of the NAO center over the subtropical Atlantic Ocean. The link between the SWUS temperatures and NAO has been strengthened in the last 30-yr period (1980–2009), compared to the previous 30-yr period (1950–79). In contrast to the NAO–SWUS temperature relationship, El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO) show only marginal correlation strengths in several limited regions for the same 60-yr period.


This article was originally published in Journal of Climate, volume 28, issue 14, in 2015. DOI: 10.1175/JCLI-D-14-00521.1

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