Assessing the large-scale drivers of precipitation in the Northeastern United States via linear orthogonal decomposition

Raymond Sukhdeo, Paul A. Ullrich & Richard Grotjahn


Department of Energy, Office of Science, Earth & Environmental Systems Modeling, MultiSector Dynamics Program Acknowledged Support: Yes, Regional and Global Modeling Analysis, and Earth System Model Development Programs


This study examines the linear orthogonal modes associated with monthly precipitation in the northeastern United States, from CESM1 LENS (35 ensemble members, 1979–2005) and two reanalysis datasets (ERA5, 1950–2018 and NOAA-CIRES-DOE 20CRv3, 1950–2015). Calendar months are aggregated together, and any linear trends in data are removed. Using region-averaged precipitation anomaly time series and monthly anomalies for several global 2D atmospheric fields, a linear orthogonal decomposition method is implemented to iteratively extract time series (based on field and geographic location) of absolute maximum correlation. Linear modes associated with this method are then projected onto the full set of 2D fields to provide physical insight into the mechanisms involved in generating precipitation. In this region, the first mode is associated with vapor transport from the Atlantic seaboard, the second mode is characterized by westward vapor transport associated with extratropical cyclones, and the third mode captures vapor transport from the Gulf of Mexico during the fall and winter. However, the third mode is less robust in the spring and summer. Results are generally consistent across the datasets, and applying multiple linear regression with the linear modes to predict the precipitation anomalies produces R-squared values of around 0.54–0.65 for CESM1 LENS, and around 0.58–0.88 for reanalysis, with the lowest values generally in the spring and late summer. The influence of low-frequency climate variability on the modes is considered for CESM1 LENS, and the modes in late winter can be predicted with some success via a combination of several, prominent large-scale teleconnection patterns.

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