The Dominant Synoptic-Scale Modes of North American Monsoon Precipitation

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Simona Seastrand, Yolande L Serra, Christopher L Castro and Elizabeth Ritchie, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, United States
In this study we explore the mechanisms of synoptic rainfall variability using observations from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission satellite. While previously shown to have an important impact on North American monsoon rainfall, tropical cyclones are excluded from this analysis, in order to focus on more frequent synoptic disturbances within the region. A rotated empirical orthogonal function analysis of North American monsoon rainfall for June through September 2002-2009 suggests low-level tropical disturbances contribute to the leading two modes of precipitation variability within this region. The low-level disturbances result in gulf surges, or low-level surges of moisture up the Gulf of California, and provide a key low-level moisture source to facilitate development of organized convection. In the first mode the low-level trough brings precipitation to lower elevations along the western slopes of the Sierra Madre Occidental south of Hermosillo, Mexico and over the southern Baja Peninsula. In the second mode the low-level trough interacts with an upper-level inverted trough enhancing precipitation into the southwestern United States and northwest Mexico. In particular, the upper-level trough contributes to the easterly-northeasterly shear across the region, favoring mesoscale convective organization and enhanced deep convection over the Sierra Madre Occidental and higher elevations in southeast Arizona. The EOF methodology offers an objective approach for determining the dominant modes of precipitation for the monsoon region useful for identifying past and monitoring future low-frequency impacts on these modes.