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Publication Date
28 July 2022

Changing Trends in Drought Patterns Over the Northeastern U.S. Using Multiple Large Ensemble Datasets



Since the infamous extreme drought of the 1960s, the climate of the Northeastern United States (NEUS) has generally trended towards warmer and wetter conditions. Nonetheless, there is mounting evidence that short-term droughts will continue to pose a significant risk for this region. To better explore the processes governing events such as these, climate models have adopted more complex representations of the fully coupled atmosphere-land-ocean-sea ice system; however, large uncertainties in future projections still persist, with internal variability necessitating large ensembles to understand trends in both rare and high-impact extreme events such as rapidly developing droughts (a term here that includes flash droughts developing on monthly scales). In this study, 7 large ensemble (LE) models are employed to answer the outstanding question – how is the frequency and character of drought in the NEUS changing under a warming climate? We find most LE models indicate the NEUS will experience a long-term wetting trend with more “extremely wet” months, but also more frequent short-term extreme droughts. These changes are associated with increasing precipitation, atmospheric water demand, and climate variability. We also conclude that discrepant trends in precipitation and evapotranspiration variability will lead to increasing anti-correlation of these variables, which is relevant to the intensification of rapidly developing drought – particularly in the spring season. These changes are associated with an increase in evapotranspiration from plants, brought by an earlier emergence of the growing season and denser vegetation.

Xue, Zeyu, and Paul A. Ullrich. 2022. “Changing Trends In Drought Patterns Over The Northeastern U.s. Using Multiple Large Ensemble Datasets”. Journal Of Climate. American Meteorological Society, 1-49. doi:10.1175/jcli-d-21-0810.1.
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