Synoptic moisture pathways associated with mean and extreme precipitation over Canada for winter and spring

  • Xuezhi TanEmail author
  • Thian Yew Gan
  • Yongqin David Chen


Dominant synoptic moisture pathway patterns of vertically integrated water vapor transport (IVT) in winter and spring over Canada West and East were identified using the self-organizing map method. Large-scale meteorological patterns (LSMPs), together with synoptic moisture pathway patterns, were related to the variability in seasonal precipitation totals and occurrences of extreme precipitation events. Changes in both occurrences of LSMPs and seasonal precipitation occurred under those LSMPs were analyzed to explain observed changes in seasonal precipitation totals and occurrences of extreme precipitation events. The effects of large-scale climate anomalies on occurrences of LSMPs were also examined by composite analyses. Results show that synoptic moisture pathways and LSMPs exhibit the propagation of jet streams resulting from the Rossby wave resonance, as the location and direction of ridges and troughs, and the strength and center of pressure lows and highs varied considerably. Even though LSMPs resulting in positive precipitation anomalies are associated with more frequent occurrences of extreme precipitation events than those resulting in negative precipitation anomalies, the patterns featured with anomalously low IVT are sometimes associated with more frequent occurrences of extreme precipitation events. Significant decreases in occurrences of synoptic moisture pathway patterns that are favorable with positive precipitation anomalies and more precipitation extremes in winter over Canada West, and significant decreases in seasonal precipitation and occurrences of precipitation extremes under most synoptic moisture patterns resulted in decreases in seasonal precipitation and the occurrence of extreme precipitation events. LSMPs resulting in a hot and dry (cold and wet) climate and less (more) frequent extreme precipitation events over the Canadian Prairies in winter and northwestern Canada in spring are more likely to occur in years with a negative (positive) phase of PNA. Occurrences of LSMPs for a wet climate and frequent occurrences of extreme precipitation events over southeastern Canada are associated with a positive phase of NAO. In El Niño years or negative PDO years, occurrences of LSMPs tend to associate with a dry climate and less frequent precipitation extremes over western Canada.


Vertically integrated water vapor transport Synoptic patterns Large-scale meteorological patterns Seasonal precipitation Extreme precipitation Self-organizing maps, climate anomalies 



The first author was partly funded by the China Scholarship Council (CSC) of P.R. China, the University of Alberta and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (nos. 51809295, 51879289, 51822908). We are grateful to Pia Papadopol and Dan McKenney from the Natural Resources Canada for providing the ANUSPLIN Canadian precipitation data used in this study. All analyses were conducted using the R language, and maps were plotted using NCL language. The SOM algorithm was implemented in the “kohonen” package (Wehrens and Buydens 2007). The JRA-55 reanalysis for geopotential heights and IVT were downloaded from Monthly values of the multivariate ENSO index (MEI) (Wolter and Timlin 2011) and the PDO index, and daily values of PNA, NAO and AO indices were obtained from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center.

Supplementary material

382_2019_4649_MOESM1_ESM.docx (11.8 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 12037 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Water Resources and Environment, School of Civil EngineeringSun Yat-sen UniversityGuangzhouPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  3. 3.Department of Geography and Resource Management, Institute of Environment, Energy and SustainabilityThe Chinese University of Hong KongHong KongPeople’s Republic of China

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