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Publication Date
1 August 2019

Mechanisms for an Amplified Precipitation Seasonal Cycle in the U.S. West Coast under Global Warming



The mean precipitation along the U.S. West Coast exhibits a pronounced seasonality change under warming. Here we explore the characteristics of the seasonality change and investigate the underlying mechanisms, with a focus on quantifying the roles of moisture (thermodynamic) versus circulation (dynamic). The multimodel simulations from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) show a simple “wet-get-wetter” response over Washington and Oregon but a sharpened seasonal cycle marked by a stronger and narrower wet season over California. Moisture budget analysis shows that changes in both regions are predominantly caused by changes in the mean moisture convergence. The thermodynamic effect due to the mass convergence of increased moisture dominates the wet-get-wetter response over Washington and Oregon. In contrast, mean zonal moisture advection due to seasonally dependent changes in land–sea moisture contrast originating from the nonlinear Clausius–Clapeyron relation dominates the sharpened wet season over California. More specifically, the stronger climatological land–sea thermal contrast in winter with warmer ocean than land results in more moisture increase over ocean than land under warming and hence wet advection to California. However, in fall and spring, the future change of land–sea thermal contrast with larger warming over land than ocean induces an opposite moisture gradient and hence dry advection to California. These results have important implications for projecting changes in the hydrological cycle of the U.S. West Coast.

“Mechanisms For An Amplified Precipitation Seasonal Cycle In The U.s. West Coast Under Global Warming”. 2019. Journal Of Climate 32: 4681 - 4698. doi:10.1175/JCLI-D-19-0093.1.
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