Oct 242015
 
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I continue to be interested in the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation(AMO) impact of Flagstaff precipitation. It surprises me that there could be a link between the sea surface water temperatures in the North Atlantic and the rain and snow amounts on the other side of North America, in a desert.

I past posts, I have discussed the image below and the link of AMO and Flagstaff precipitation.

Drought frequency (in percent of years) for positive and negative regimes of the PDO and AMO. (A) Positive PDO, negative AMO. (B) Negative PDO, negative AMO. (C) Positive PDO, positive AMO. (D) Negative PDO, positive AMO(http://www.pnas.org/content/101/12/4136.full).

Drought frequency (in percent of years) for positive and negative regimes of the PDO and AMO. (A) Positive PDO, negative AMO. (B) Negative PDO, negative AMO. (C) Positive PDO, positive AMO. (D) Negative PDO, positive AMO (http://www.pnas.org/content/101/12/4136.full).

The basic summary is that if the Atlantic is cool (AMO Negative) and the Pacific is warm (PDO Positive), Northern Arizona should have a lower risk of drought. But, does the AMO alone have a noticeable effect on Flagstaff precipitation. Using the data from NOAA at their Earth Systems Research Library, and the precipitation data for Flagstaff since 1950, a potential match in the data sets appears. (I only use the data back to 1950 because the National Weather Service’s Flagstaff measurement location moved from downtown to the airport in 1950.) To help reduce short-term effects, I used the smoothed data for the AMO and last 12 months precipitation total. Here is the resulting graph:

Last 12 month total previpitation and Atlantic sea surface temperature AMO index.

Last 12 month total precipitation and Atlantic sea surface temperature AMO index.

Looking at the AMO data, I see three zones In the first zone, the AMO is mostly positive and ends around January 1963. In the second zone, it is mostly negative and goes through July 1995. In the last zone, it is mostly positive. Here is another graph with those zone highlighted.

Last 12 month total precipitation and Atlantic sea surface temperature AMO index.

Last 12 month total precipitation and Atlantic sea surface temperature AMO index.

Looking at the each of these zones, there also appears to be a difference in the 12 month precipitation amounts.The first and last zones have a lower average. But is that enough?

Looking at a histogram of the precipitation data shows the trend more clearly.

Histogram of 12 month total precipitation.

Histogram of 12 month total precipitation.

The first and last zones have their peaks at lower precipitation amounts. There is still plenty of overlap between the zones, but the 1963-1995 zone has a higher average and a longer tail at the higher amounts. The Atlantic sea surface temperatures seem to have an effect on Flagstaff’s precipitation.

One lingering point concerns me. The is a recent upward trend since about 2010. The AMO data above includes the entire North Atlantic, from the Equator to 70 degrees North. This view might not be the best. There has been a persistent band of cold water in the far northern region of the Atlantic for about the last two years. This matches a move to a higher average precipitation recently. A better subset of the North Atlantic might be worth considering.

 

 

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