Decadal Potential Predictability of Soil Water, Vegetation, and Wildfire Frequency over North America

Monday, 15 December 2014
Yoshimitsu Chikamoto1, Axel Timmermann1, Samantha L Stevenson2, Pedro N Di Nezio1 and Sally Langford3, (1)IPRC, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, HI, United States, (2)National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO, United States, (3)CIRES, Boulder, CO, United States
The potential decadal predictability of land hydrological and biogeochemical variables in North America is examined using a 900-year-long pre-industrial control simulation, conducted with the NCAR Community EarthSystem Model (CESM). The leading modes of simulated North American precipitation and soil water storage are characterized by qualitatively similar meridional seesaw patterns associated with the downstream activity of the westerly jet. Whereas the corresponding precipitation variability can be described as a white noise stochastic process, power spectra of vertically integrated soil water exhibit significant redness on timescales of years to decades since the predictability of soil water storage arises mostly from the integration of precipitation variability. As a result, our ensemble hindcasts conducted with the CESM for various initial conditions are skillful with lead times of up to several years due to the long-term memory of damped persistence. Our control simulation further suggests that decadal variations in soil water storage also affect vegetation and wildfire occurrences. Our results demonstrate that skillful decadal predictions of soil water storage, carbon stock, and fire frequency are feasible with proper initialization of soil conditions. Although the potential predictability in our idealized modeling framework would overestimate the real predictability of the coupled climate-land-vegetation system, the decadal climate prediction may become beneficial for water resource management, forestry, and agriculture.