Spring land temperature anomalies in northwestern US and the summer drought over Southern Plains and adjacent areas

Yongkang Xue, Catalina M. Oaida, Ismaila Diallo, J. David Neelin, Suosuo Li, Fernando De Sales, Yu Gu, David A. Robinson, Ratko Vasic, Lan Yi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Recurrent drought and associated heatwave episodes are important features of the US climate. Many studies have examined the connection between ocean surface temperature changes and conterminous US droughts. However, remote effects of large-scale land surface temperature variability, over shorter but still considerable distances, on US regional droughts have been largely ignored. The present study combines two types of evidence to address these effects: climate observations and model simulations. Our analysis of observational data shows that springtime land temperature in northwest US is significantly correlated with summer rainfall and surface temperature changes in the US Southern Plains and its adjacent areas. Our model simulations of the 2011 Southern Plains drought using a general circulation model and a regional climate model confirm the observed relationship between land temperature anomaly and drought, and suggest that the long-distance effect of land temperature changes in the northwest US on Southern Plains droughts is probably as large as the more familiar effects of ocean surface temperatures and atmospheric internal variability. We conclude that the cool 2011 springtime climate conditions in the northwest US increased the probability of summer drought and abnormal heat in the Southern Plains. The present study suggests a strong potential for more skillful intra-seasonal predictions of US Southern Plains droughts when such facts as ones presented here are considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number044018
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 13 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • General Environmental Science
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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