The role of spring dry zonal advection in summer drought onset over the US Great Plains

Erfanian, Amir; Fu, Rong

This study addresses the role of the atmospheric moisture budget in determining the onset and development of summer droughts over the North American Great Plains (GP) using two state-of-the-art reanalysis datasets. We identified zonal moisture advection as the main cause of severe tropospheric drying during the extreme droughts in the southern GP in 2011 and northern GP in 2012. For both events, the eastward advection of anomalously dry and warm air in the free troposphere in spring set the stage for summer drought. This led to a sharp drop in relative humidity above the boundary layer, enhancing dry entrainment and suppressing deep convection. Further breakdown of the zonal advection into dynamic (caused by circulation anomalies) and thermodynamic (caused by moisture anomalies) contributions reveals dominance of thermodynamic advection in the tropospheric drying observed during the onset of both 2011 and 2012 droughts. The dependence of thermodynamic advection on the moisture gradient links springtime precipitation in the Rockies and southwestern US, the source region of the anomalous dry advection, to the GP summer precipitation (with correlations > 0.4 using gauge-based data). Identifying this previously overlooked precursor of the GP summer droughts improves our predictive understanding of drought onset mechanisms over the region.

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Erfanian, Amir / Fu, Rong: The role of spring dry zonal advection in summer drought onset over the US Great Plains. 2019. Copernicus Publications.

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Rechteinhaber: Amir Erfanian

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