Future Loss of Arctic Sea-Ice Cover Could Drive a Substantial Decrease in California’s Rainfall

TitleFuture Loss of Arctic Sea-Ice Cover Could Drive a Substantial Decrease in California’s Rainfall
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsCvijanovic, Ivana, Santer Benjamin D., Bonfils Céline, Lucas Donald D., Chiang John C. H., and Zimmerman Susan
JournalNature Communications
Volume8
Pages1947
Date Published12/2017
Abstract / Summary

From 2012 to 2016, California experienced one of the worst droughts since the start of observational records. As in previous dry periods, precipitation-inducing winter storms were steered away from California by a persistent atmospheric ridging system in the North Pacific. Here, we identify a new link between Arctic sea-ice loss and the North Pacific geopotential ridge development. In a two-step teleconnection, sea-ice changes lead to reorganization of tropical convection that, in turn, triggers an anticyclonic response over the North Pacific, resulting in significant drying over California. These findings suggest that the ability of climate models to accurately estimate future precipitation changes over California is also linked to the fidelity with which future sea-ice changes are simulated. We conclude that sea-ice loss of the magnitude expected in the next decades could substantially impact California’s precipitation, thus highlighting another mechanism by which human-caused climate change could exacerbate future California droughts.

URLhttps://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-017-01907-4
DOI10.1038/s41467-017-01907-4
Journal: Nature Communications
Year of Publication: 2017
Volume: 8
Pages: 1947
Date Published: 12/2017

From 2012 to 2016, California experienced one of the worst droughts since the start of observational records. As in previous dry periods, precipitation-inducing winter storms were steered away from California by a persistent atmospheric ridging system in the North Pacific. Here, we identify a new link between Arctic sea-ice loss and the North Pacific geopotential ridge development. In a two-step teleconnection, sea-ice changes lead to reorganization of tropical convection that, in turn, triggers an anticyclonic response over the North Pacific, resulting in significant drying over California. These findings suggest that the ability of climate models to accurately estimate future precipitation changes over California is also linked to the fidelity with which future sea-ice changes are simulated. We conclude that sea-ice loss of the magnitude expected in the next decades could substantially impact California’s precipitation, thus highlighting another mechanism by which human-caused climate change could exacerbate future California droughts.

DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-01907-4
Citation:
Cvijanovic, I, BD Santer, C Bonfils, DD Lucas, JC Chiang, and S Zimmerman.  2017.  "Future Loss of Arctic Sea-Ice Cover Could Drive a Substantial Decrease in California’s Rainfall."  Nature Communications 8: 1947.  https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-017-01907-4.