Optimal tropical sea surface temperature forcing of North American drought

  • Shin S
  • Sardeshmukh P
  • Webb R
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The optimal anomalous sea surface temperature (SST) pattern for forcing North American drought is identified through atmospheric general circulation model integrations in which the response of the Palmer drought severity index (PDSI) is determined for each of 43 prescribed localized SST anomaly "patches'' in a regular array over the tropical oceans. The robustness and relevance of the optimal pattern are established through the consistency of results obtained using two different models, and also by the good correspondence of the projection time series of historical tropical SST anomaly fields on the optimal pattern with the time series of the simulated PDSI in separate model integrations with prescribed time-varying observed global SST fields for 1920-2005. It is noteworthy that this optimal drought forcing pattern differs markedly in the Pacific Ocean from the dominant SST pattern associated with El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), and also shows a large sensitivity of North American drought to Indian and Atlantic Ocean SSTs.

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  • Sang Ik Shin

  • Prashant D. Sardeshmukh

  • Robert S. Webb

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