Climate Dynamics

, Volume 49, Issue 11–12, pp 4293–4310 | Cite as

Observed and CMIP5 modeled influence of large-scale circulation on summer precipitation and drought in the South-Central United States

  • Jung-Hee RyuEmail author
  • Katharine Hayhoe


Annual precipitation in the largely agricultural South-Central United States is characterized by a primary wet season in May and June, a mid-summer dry period in July and August, and a second precipitation peak in September and October. Of the 22 CMIP5 global climate models with sufficient output available, 16 are able to reproduce this bimodal distribution (we refer to these as “BM” models), while 6 have trouble simulating the mid-summer dry period, instead producing an extended wet season (“EW” models). In BM models, the timing and amplitude of the mid-summer westward extension of the North Atlantic Subtropical High (NASH) are realistic, while the magnitude of the Great Plains Lower Level Jet (GPLLJ) tends to be overestimated, particularly in July. In EW models, temporal variations and geophysical locations of the NASH and GPLLJ appear reasonable compared to reanalysis but their magnitudes are too weak to suppress mid-summer precipitation. During warm-season droughts, however, both groups of models reproduce the observed tendency towards a stronger NASH that remains over the region through September, and an intensification and northward extension of the GPLLJ. Similarly, future simulations from both model groups under a +1 to +3 °C transient increase in global mean temperature show decreases in summer precipitation concurrent with an enhanced NASH and an intensified GPLLJ, though models differ regarding the months in which these decreases are projected to occur: early summer in the BM models, and late summer in the EW models. Overall, these results suggest that projected future decreases in summer precipitation over the South-Central region appear to be closely related to anomalous patterns of large-scale circulation already observed and modeled during historical dry years, patterns that are consistently reproduced by CMIP5 models.


Precipitation Drought Southern Plains South Central U.S. North Atlantic Subtropical High Great Plains low-level jet Global climate models CMIP5 



We acknowledge the World Climate Research Programme’s Working Group on Coupled Modelling, which is responsible for CMIP, and we thank the climate modeling groups (listed in Table 1 of this paper) for producing and making available their model output. For CMIP5 the U.S. Department of Energy’s Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison provided coordinating support and led development of software infrastructure in partnership with the Global Organization for Earth System Science Portals. This research was supported by USGS Award Number G15AP00137.

Supplementary material

382_2017_3534_MOESM1_ESM.docx (8.4 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 8646 KB)


  1. Barandiaran D, Wang SY, Hilburn K (2013) Observed trends in the Great Plains low-level jet and associated precipitation. Geophys Res Lett. doi: 10.1002/2013GL058296 Google Scholar
  2. Barriopedro D, Fischer EM, Lutenbacher J, Trigo RM, Garcia-Herrera R (2011) The hot summer of 2010: redrawing the temperature record map of Europe. Science 332(6026):220–224CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Basara JB, Maybourn JN, Peirano CM, Tate JE, Brown PJ, Hoey JD, Smith BR (2013) Drought and associated impacts in the great plains of the United States—a review. Int J Geosci 4:72–81CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bechtold, Chaboureau JP, Beljaars A, Betts AK, K¨ohler M, Miller M, Redelsperger JL (2004) The simulation of the diurnal cycle of convective precipitation over land in a global model. Q J R Meteorol Soc 130:3119–3137CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Betts A, Ball JH, Beljaars ACM, Miller MJ, Viterbo PA (1996) The land surface-atmosphere interaction: a review based on observational and global modeling perspectives. J Geophys Res 101:7209–7225CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Blackadar AK (1957) Boundary layer wind maxima and their significance for the growth of nocturnal inversions. Bull Amer Meteor Soc 38:283–290Google Scholar
  7. Bonner WD, Paegle J (1970) Diurnal variations in the boundary layer winds over the south-central United States in summer. Mon Wea Rev 98:735–744CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bukovsky MS, Karoly DJ (2007) A brief evaluation of precipitation from the North American Regional Reanalysis. J Hydrometeo 8:837–846CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chang FC, Wallace JM (1987) Meteorological conditions during heat waves and droughts in the United States Great Plains. Mon Wea Rev 115:1253–1269CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Moss RH and coauthors (2010) The next generation of scenarios for climate change research and assessment. Nature 463:747–756CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cook KH, Vizy EK, Launer ZS, Patricola CM (2008) Springtime intensification of the Great Plains low-level jet and Midwest precipitation in GCM simulations of the twenty-first century. J Clim 21:6321–6340. doi: 10.1175/2008JCLI2355.1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dai A (2006) Precipitation characteristics in eighteen coupled climate models. J Clim 19:4605–4630CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Davis RE, Hayden BP, Gay DA, Phillips WL, Jones GV (1997) The North Atlantic subtropical anticyclone. J Clim 10:728–744CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dickson RR (1980) Weather and circulation of June 1980-inception of a heat wave and drought over the central and southern Great Plains. Mon Wea Rev 108:1469–1474CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Diem JE (2006) Synoptic-scale controls of summer precipitation in the Southeastern United States. J Clim 19:613–621CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dirmeyer PA, Cash BA, Kinter III JL, Jung T, Marx L, Satoh M, Stan C, Hirofumi T, Towers P, Wedi N, Achuthavarier D, Adams JD, Altshuler EL, Huang B, Jin EK, Manganello J (2012) Simulating the diurnal cycle of rainfall in global climate models: resolution versus parameterization. Clim Dyn 39:399–418CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Durre I, Wallace JM, Lettenmaier DP (2000) Dependence of extreme daily maximum temperatures on antecedent soil moisture in the contiguous United States during summer. J Clim 13(14):2641–2651CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Fannin B (2012) Updated 2011 Texas agricultural drought losses total $7.62 billion. Texas A&M AgriLife Today. March 21, 2012
  19. Garfin G, Franco G, Blanco H, Comrie A, Gonzalez P, Piechota T, Smyth R, Waskom R (2014) Ch. 20: Southwest. In Climate change impacts in the United States: The third national climate assessment, edited by J.M. Melillo, T.C. Richmond, and G.W. Yohe. Washington, DC: U.S. Global Change Research Program, 462–486Google Scholar
  20. Harding KJ, Snyder PK (2014) Examining future changes in the character of Central U.S. warm-season precipitation using dynamical downscaling. J Geophys Res 119:13116–13136. doi: 10.1002/2014JD022575 Google Scholar
  21. Harding KJ, Snyder PK (2015) The relationship between the Pacific–North American Teleconnection Pattern, the Great Plains Low-Level Jet, and North Central U.S. Heavy Rainfall Events. J Clim. doi: 10.1175/JCLI-D-14-00657.1 Google Scholar
  22. Harding KJ, Snyder PK, Liess S (2013) Use of dynamical downscaling to improve the simulation of Central U.S. warm season precipitation in CMIP5 models. J Geophys Res 118:12522–12536. doi: 10.1002/2013JD019994 Google Scholar
  23. Harris I, Jones PD, Osborn TJ, Lister DH (2014) Updated high-resolution grids of monthly climatic observations – the CRU TS3.10 Dataset. Int J Climatol 34:623–642CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Helfand HM, Schubert SD (1995) Climatology of the simulated Great Plains low-level jet and its contribution to the continental moisture budget of the United States. J Clim 8:784–806CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Henderson KG, Muller RA (1997) Extreme temperature days in the south-central United States. Clim Res 8:151–162CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Henderson KG, Vega AJ (1996) Regional precipitation variability in the southern United States. Phys Geogr 17:93–112Google Scholar
  27. Higgins RW, Yao Y, Yarosh ES, Janowiak JE, Mo KC (1997) Influence of the Great Plains low-level jet on summertime precipitation and moisture transport over the Central United States. J Clim 10:481–507CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hoerling M, Coauthors (2013) Anatomy of an extreme event. J Clim 26:2811–2832CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hoerling M, Kumar A (2003) The perfect Ocean for Drought. Science 299:691–694CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Holton JR (1967) The diurnal boundary layer wind oscillation above sloping terrain. Tellus 19:199–205CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hoxit LR (1975) Diurnal variations in planetary boundary-layer winds over land. Bound Layer Meteor 8:21–38CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Klein WH (1952) The weather and circulation of June 1952-A month with a record heat wave. Mon Wea Rev 80:99–104CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Koster RD (2004) Regions of strong coupling between soil moisture and precipitation. Science 305:1138–1140CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Koster RD, Schubert SD, Suarez MJ (2009) Analyzing the concurrence of meteorological droughts and warm periods, with implications for the determination of evaporative regime. J Clim 22:3331–3341CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Kutzbach JE (1967) Empirical eigenvectors of sea-level pressure, surface temperature and precipitation complexes over North America. J Appl Meteor 6:791–802CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Li W, Li L, Fu R, Deng Y, Wang H (2011) Changes to the North Atlantic subtropical high and its role in the intensification of summer rainfall variability in the southeastern United States. J Clim 24:1499–1506CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Li L, Li W, Kushnir Y (2012) Variation of North Atlantic Subtropical High western ridge and its implication to the southeastern US summer precipitation. Clim Dyn 39:1401–1412CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Li L, Li W, Jin J (2015) Contribution of the North Atlantic subtropical high to regional climate model (RCM) skill in simulating southeastern United States summer precipitation. Clim Dyn 45:477–491CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Madden RA, Williams J (1978) The correlation between temperature and precipitation in the United States and Europe. Mon Wea Rev 106:142–147CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Mesinger et al (2006) North American Regional Reanalysis. Bull Amer Meteor Soc 87:343–360. doi: 10.1175/bams-87-3-343
  41. Mo KC, Chelliah M, Carrera ML, Higgins RW, Ebisuzaki W (2005) Atmospheric moisture transport over the United States and Mexico as evaluated in the NCEP regional reanalysis. J Hydrometeo 6:710–728CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Myoung B, Nielsen-Gammon (2010) The convective instability pathway to warm season drought in Texas. Part II: free-tropospheric modulation of convective inhibition. J Clim 23:4474–4488CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Namias J (1955) Some meteorological aspects of drought with special reference to the summers of 1952-54 over the United States. Mon Wea Rev 83:199–205CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Namias J (1982) Anatomy of Great Plains Protracted Heat Waves (especially the 1980 U.S. summer drought). Mon Wea Rev 110:824–838CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. NCDC (2013) Billion-dollar weather/climate disasters 1980–2016. Available online: Accessed 16 Sept 2013
  46. Nigam S, Guan B, Ruiz-Barradas A (2011) Key role of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation in 20th century drought and wet periods over the Great Plains. Geophys Res Lett 38:L16713. doi: 10.1029/2011GL048650 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Ortegren JT, Knapp PA, Maxwell JT, Tyminski WP, Soule PT (2011) Ocean-atmosphere influences on low-frequency warm-season drought variability in the Gulf coast and Southeastern United States. J Appl Meteorol Climatol 50:1177–1186CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Patricola CM, Cook KH (2013a) Mid-twenty-first century climate change in the Central United States. Part I: regional and global model predictions. Clim Dyn 40:551–568CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Patricola CM, Cook KH (2013b) Mid-twenty-first century climate change in the Central United States. Part II: climate change processes. Clim Dyn 40:569–583CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Patricola CM, Chang P, Saravanan R (2015) Impact of Atlantic SST and high frequency atmospheric variability on the 1993 and 2008 Midwest floods: regional climate model simulations of extreme climate events. Clim Change 129:397–411CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Rodwell MJ, Hoskins BJ (2001) Subtropical anticyclones and summer monsoon. J Clim 14:3192–3211CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Ruiz-Barradas A, Nigam S (2005) Warm-season rainfall variability over the U.S. Great Plains in observations, NCEP and ERA-40 reanalyses, and NCAR and NASA atmospheric model simulations. J Clim 18:1808–1830CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Ruiz-Barradas A, Nigam S (2013) Atmosphere-land-surface interactions over the Southern Great Plains: characterization from pentad analysis of DOE-ARM Field observations and NARR reanalysis. J Clim 26:875–886CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Ryu J-H, Hayhoe K (2014) Understanding the sources of Caribbean precipitation biases in CMIP3 and CMIP5 simulations. Clim Dyn 42:3233–3252. doi: 10.1007/s00382-013-1801-1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Seager R, Goddard L (2014) Dynamical causes of the 2010/11 Texas-Norther Mexico drought. J Hydrometeo 15:39–69CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Shafer M, Ojima D, Antle JM, Kluck D, McPherson RA, Petersen S, Scanlon B, Sherman K (2014) Ch. 19: Great Plains. Climate Change Impacts in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment, Melillo JM, Richmond TC, Yohe GW, Eds., U.S. Global Change Research Program, 441–461. doi: 10.7930/J0D798BC
  57. Schubert SD, Coauthors (2009) A U.S. CLIVAR Project to Assess and Compare the Responses of Global Climate Models to Drought-Related SST Forcing Patterns: Overview and Results. J Clim 22:5251–5272CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Schubert SD, Surez MJ, Pegion PJ, Koster RD, Bacmeister JT (2004) Causes of long-term drought in the U.S. Great Plains. J Clim 17:485–503CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Swain S, Hayhoe K (2015) CMIP5 projected changes in spring and summer drought and wet conditions over North America. Clim Dyn 44:2737–2750CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Taylor KE, Stouffer RJ, Meehl GA (2012) An overview of CMIP5 and the experiment design. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 93:485–498CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Ting M, Wang H (2006) The Role of the North American Topography on the Maintenance of the Great Plains Summer Low-Level Jet. J Atmos Sci 63:1056–1068CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Trenberth KE, Branstaror GW, Arkin PA (1988) Origins of the 1988 North American Drought. Science 242:1640–1645CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. USDA FSA (2015) Secretarial Drought Designations - All Drought. United Stated Department of Agriculture Farm Services Agreement. Washington DC. Jan 28, 2015.
  64. Walsh J, Coauthors (2014) Ch. 2: Our changing climate. In Climate change impacts in the United States: The third national climate assessment, edited by Melillo JM, Richmond TC, and Yohe GW. Washington, DC: U.S. Global Change Research Program, 19–67Google Scholar
  65. Weaver SJ, Nigam S (2008) Variability of the Great Plains low-level jet: large-scale circulation context and hydroclimate impacts. J Clim 21:1532–1551. doi: 10.1175/2007JCLI1586.1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Weaver SJ, Nigam S (2011) Recurrent supersynoptic evolution of the Great Plains low-level jet. J Clim 24:575–582CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Weaver SJ, Schubert S, Wang H (2009) Warm season variations in the low-level Circulation and precipitation over the Center United States in observations, AMIP Simulations, and idealized SST experiments. J Clim 22:5401–5420. doi: 10.1175/2009JCLI2984.1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Wexler H (1961) A boundary layer interpretation of the low-level jet. Tellus 13:368–378CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Wuebbles D et al (2014) CMIP5 climate model analyses: climate extremes in the United States. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 95:571–583CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Zhao S, Deng Y, Black RX (2016) Warm Season Dry Spells in the Central and Eastern United States: diverging Skill in Climate Model Representation. J Clim. doi: 10.1175/JCLI-D-16-0321.1 Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Climate Science CenterTexas Tech UniversityLubbockUSA
  2. 2.Department of Political ScienceTexas Tech UniversityLubbockUSA

Personalised recommendations