Understanding the Influence of Terrestrial Water Anomalies on Summer Surface Air Temperature Variability over North America

Monday, 15 December 2014
Anna Merrifield1, Nathaniel C Johnson2, Yu Kosaka2 and Shang-Ping Xie2, (1)University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA, United States, (2)Scripps Institute of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA, United States
Understanding natural variability in the climate system is vital for the detection and attribution of anthropogenically induced change in General Circulation Models (GCMs). GCM predictions of winter surface air temperature (SAT) variability generally are skillful at midlatitudes due to a strong coupling with tropical variability through atmospheric teleconnections. When atmospheric circulation weakens during the summer, however, GCM predictions of SAT variability are less skillful than during the winter, particularly over North America.

This study examines the extent that terrestrial water anomalies in the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) equivalent water thickness product influence patterns of summer SAT variability over North America from 2002 to 2014. Analysis of the Atmospheric Model Intercomparison Project (AMIP) CM2.1 10-member ensemble indicates there is a significant land surface feedback on summer SAT. The GRACE product provides a metric for evaluating spurious soil moisture signals, which likely enhance summer SAT variability in the AMIP ensemble. To further investigate spatial patterns in soil moisture, simulated (AMIP) and reanalysis (Climate Prediction Center) rainfall patterns are used to demonstrate a potential cause-effect relationship between precipitation and terrestrial water anomalies. Finally, we evaluate whether soil moisture is a useful diagnostic for enhancing predictions of anomalous summer heat waves over North America.