This study investigates the principal modes of seasonal moisture flux transport over North America, analyzing their possible, dependence on large-scale atmospheric circulation patterns. It uses 23 yr (1979-2001) of 6-hourly data from the NCEP-NCAR reanalysis I project. Complex empirical orthogonal function (complex-EOF) analysis is implemented on the vertically integrated and seasonally averaged moisture flux, to identify the dominant modes. For every season, the characteristic spatial pattern of the two most dominant modes is compared to the geopotential height anomaly field and precipitation anomaly field using correlation analysis. The two dominant winter modes capture the variabi lity in the moisture flux field associated with extreme precipitation events over the western coast of the United States. The first winter mode captures 52% of the variability of the season and is related to the strong ENSO events of 1982/83 and 1997/98 (El Niño) and 1989 (La Niña). The second winter mode captures anomalous high moisture flux over the southwest related to the east Pacific teleconnection pattern. The intense moistur e transport associated with high-precipitation events in the central United States (including the 1993 flood) is captured by summer mode 1, while the second mode of the summer season captures the moisture flux variability related to the 1983 and 1988 droughts. The results show that these summer flood and drought events are characterized by very different moisture flux anomalies and are not the positive and negative phases of a given mode. The use of complex-EO F analysis captures extreme hydrologic events as characteristic modes of interannual variability and allows a better understanding of the atmospheric circulation patterns associated with these events.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Atmospheric Science