Relationships between Large-Scale Regime Transitions and Major Cool-Season Precipitation Events in the Northeastern United States

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This observational study investigates statistical and synoptic–dynamic relationships between regime transitions, defined as a North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) or Pacific–North American pattern (PNA) index change from at least a 1 standard deviation anomaly to at least a 1 standard deviation anomaly of opposite sign within 7 days, and cool-season (November–April) northeastern U.S. (NE) precipitation. A statistical analysis is performed of daily cool-season NE precipitation during all NAO and PNA transitions for 1948–2003, and a composite analysis and case study of a major cool-season NE precipitation event occurring during a positive-to-negative NAO transition are conducted. Datasets used are the 0.25° NCEP Unified Precipitation Dataset, the 2.5° NCEP–NCAR reanalysis, and the 1.125° 40-yr ECMWF Re-Analysis (ERA-40).

Results of the statistical analysis suggest that cool-season NE precipitation tends to be enhanced during positive-to-negative NAO and negative-to-positive PNA transitions, and suppressed during negative-to-positive NAO and positive-to-negative PNA transitions. Of the four types of regime transitions, only the positive-to-negative NAO transition is associated with substantially more frequent major cool-season NE precipitation events compared to climatology. Results of the composite analysis and case study indicate that a surface cyclone and cyclonic wave breaking associated with the major NE precipitation event can help produce a high-latitude blocking pattern over the North Atlantic characteristic of a negative NAO pattern via thermal advection, potential vorticity transport, and diabatic processes.



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