, Volume 39, Issue 6, pp 1401-1412
Date: 15 Oct 2011

Variation of the North Atlantic subtropical high western ridge and its implication to Southeastern US summer precipitation

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Abstract

Variations of the North Atlantic subtropical high (NASH) western ridge and their implication to the Southeastern United States (SE US) summer precipitation were analyzed for the years 1948–2007. The results show that the movement of the NASH western ridge regulates both moisture transport and vertical motion over the SE US, especially in the last three decades, during which the ridge moved westward towards the American continent. When the NASH western ridge is located southwest (SW) of its mean climate position, excessive summer precipitation is observed due to an enhanced moisture transport. In contrast, when the western ridge is located in the northwest (NW), a precipitation deficit prevails as downward motion dominates the region. Composite analysis indicates that SW ridging results mainly from the NASH center’s intensification; whereas NW ridging is likely caused by stationary wave propagation from the eastern Pacific/US western coast. In recent decades, both the SW and NW ridge positions have been observed to increase in frequency. Our results suggest that the increase in the SW ridging consistently follows the NASH’s intensification associated with anthropogenic forcing as projected by coupled climate models. However, the increased frequency of NW ridging tends to follow the positive Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO) index. Thus, the enhanced variability in the SE US summer precipitation in recent decades might be a combined result of anthropogenic forcing and internal variability of the climate system. Results suggest that, as anthropogenic forcing continues to increase, the SE US will experience more frequent wet summers and an increase in the frequency of dry summers during positive PDO phases.