Coats Sloan

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  • Article
    Ocean-atmosphere trajectories of extended drought in southwestern North America
    (American Geophysical Union, 2019-08-06) Parsons, Luke A. ; Coats, Sloan
    Multiyear droughts are a common occurrence in southwestern North America (SWNA), but it is unclear what causes these persistent dry periods. The ocean‐atmosphere conditions coinciding with droughts have traditionally been studied using correlation and composite methods, which suggest that cool conditions in the tropical Pacific are associated with SWNA droughts and warm conditions are associated with wet periods in SWNA. Nevertheless, the extent to which multiyear droughts are truly consistent with this paradigm remains unknown. This is, in part, because the temporal trajectory of ocean‐atmosphere conditions during these dry periods have not been sufficiently characterized. Here we examine the continuum of ocean‐atmosphere trajectories before, during, and after multiyear droughts in SWNA using observation‐based data and an ensemble of climate model simulations from the Community Earth System Model. An examination of sea surface temperature patterns at the beginning, middle, and end of SWNA droughts shows that an El Niño event tends to precede SWNA droughts, a cool tropical Pacific occurs during droughts, and central Pacific El Niño events end droughts. However, moderate El Niño events can occur in the middle of persistent droughts, so a warm tropical Pacific does not always end these dry periods. These findings are important for drought predictability and emphasize the need to improve simulations of the magnitude, life cycle, and frequency of occurrence of El Niño events.
  • Article
    The value of initial condition large ensembles to robust adaptation decision-making
    (American Geophysical Union, 2020-08-10) Mankin, Justin S. ; Lehner, Flavio ; Coats, Sloan ; McKinnon, Karen A.
    The origins of uncertainty in climate projections have major consequences for the scientific and policy decisions made in response to climate change. Internal climate variability, for example, is an inherent uncertainty in the climate system that is undersampled by the multimodel ensembles used in most climate impacts research. Because of this, decision makers are left with the question of whether the range of climate projections across models is due to structural model choices, thus requiring more scientific investment to constrain, or instead is a set of equally plausible outcomes consistent with the same warming world. Similarly, many questions faced by scientists require a clear separation of model uncertainty and that arising from internal variability. With this as motivation and the renewed attention to large ensembles given planning for Phase 7 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP7), we illustrate the scientific and policy value of the attribution and quantification of uncertainty from initial condition large ensembles, particularly when analyzed in conjunction with multimodel ensembles. We focus on how large ensembles can support regional‐scale robust adaptation decision‐making in ways multimodel ensembles alone cannot. We also acknowledge several recently identified problems associated with large ensembles, namely, that they are (1) resource intensive, (2) redundant, and (3) biased. Despite these challenges, we show, using examples from hydroclimate, how large ensembles provide unique information for the scientific and policy communities and can be analyzed appropriately for regional‐scale climate impacts research to help inform risk management in a warming world.
  • Article
    Coupled model biases breed spurious low‐frequency variability in the tropical Pacific Ocean
    (John Wiley & Sons, 2018-10-07) Samanta, Dhrubajyoti ; Karnauskas, Kristopher B. ; Goodkin, Nathalie F. ; Coats, Sloan ; Smerdon, Jason E. ; Zhang, Lei
    Coupled general circulation model (GCM) biases in the tropical Pacific are substantial, including a westward extended cold sea surface temperature (SST) bias linked to El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Investigation of internal climate variability at centennial timescales using multicentury control integrations of 27 GCMs suggests that a Pacific Centennial Oscillation emerges in GCMs with too strong ENSO variability in the equatorial Pacific, including westward extended SST variability. Using a stochastic model of climate variability (Hasselmann type), we diagnose such centennial SST variance in the western equatorial Pacific. The consistency of a simple stochastic model with complex GCMs suggests that a previously defined Pacific Centennial Oscillation may be driven by biases in high‐frequency ENSO forcing in the western equatorial Pacific. A cautious evaluation of long‐term trends in the tropical Pacific from GCMs is necessary because significant trends in historical and future simulations are possible consequences of biases in simulated internal variability alone.
  • Article
    (American Geophysical Union, 2019-10-14) Fan, Wenyuan ; McGuire, Jeffrey J. ; de Groot‐Hedlin, Catherine D. ; Hedlin, Michael A. H. ; Coats, Sloan ; Fiedler, Julia W.
    Seismic signals from ocean‐solid Earth interactions are ubiquitously recorded on our planet. However, these wavefields are typically incoherent in the time domain limiting their utilization for understanding ocean dynamics or solid Earth properties. In contrast, we find that during large storms such as hurricanes and Nor'easters the interaction of long‐period ocean waves with shallow seafloor features located near the edge of continental shelves, known as ocean banks, excites coherent transcontinental Rayleigh wave packets in the 20‐ to 50‐s period band. These “stormquakes” migrate coincident with the storms but are effectively spatiotemporally focused seismic point sources with equivalent earthquake magnitudes that can be greater than 3.5. Stormquakes thus provide new coherent sources to investigate Earth structure in locations that typically lack both seismic instrumentation and earthquakes. Moreover, they provide a new geophysical observable with high spatial and temporal resolution with which to investigate ocean wave dynamics during large storms.
  • Article
    The continuum of drought in southwestern North America
    (American Meteorological Society, 2018-09-20) Parsons, Luke A. ; Coats, Sloan ; Overpeck, Jonathan T.
    Drought has severe consequences for humans and their environment, yet we have a limited understanding of the drivers of drought across the full range of time scales on which it occurs. Here, the atmosphere and ocean conditions that drive this continuum of drought variability in southwestern North America (SWNA) are studied using the latest observationally based products, paleoclimate reconstructions, and state-of-the-art Earth system model simulations of the last millennium. A novel application of the self-organizing maps (SOM) methodology allows for a visualization of the continuum of climate states coinciding with thousands of droughts of varying lengths in last millennium simulations from the Community Earth System Model (CESM), the Goddard Institute for Space Studies Model E2-R (GISS E2-R), and eight other members from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5). It is found that most droughts are associated with a cool Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO) pattern, but persistent droughts can coincide with a variety of ocean–atmosphere states, including time periods showing a warm PDO or weak ocean–atmosphere anomalies. Many CMIP5 models simulate similar SWNA teleconnection patterns, but the SOM analysis demonstrates that models simulate different continuums of ocean–atmosphere states coinciding with droughts of different lengths, suggesting fundamental differences in their drought dynamics. These findings have important implications for our understanding and simulation of the drivers of persistent drought, and for their potential predictability.
  • Article
    Climate variability, volcanic forcing, and last millennium hydroclimate extremes
    (American Meteorological Society, 2018-05-03) Stevenson, Samantha ; Overpeck, Jonathan T. ; Fasullo, John T. ; Coats, Sloan ; Parsons, Luke A. ; Otto-Bliesner, Bette ; Ault, Toby ; Loope, Garrison ; Cole, Julia
    Multidecadal hydroclimate variability has been expressed as “megadroughts” (dry periods more severe and prolonged than observed over the twentieth century) and corresponding “megapluvial” wet periods in many regions around the world. The risk of such events is strongly affected by modes of coupled atmosphere–ocean variability and by external impacts on climate. Accurately assessing the mechanisms for these interactions is difficult, since it requires large ensembles of millennial simulations as well as long proxy time series. Here, the Community Earth System Model (CESM) Last Millennium Ensemble is used to examine statistical associations among megaevents, coupled climate modes, and forcing from major volcanic eruptions. El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) strongly affects hydroclimate extremes: larger ENSO amplitude reduces megadrought risk and persistence in the southwestern United States, the Sahel, monsoon Asia, and Australia, with corresponding increases in Mexico and the Amazon. The Atlantic multidecadal oscillation (AMO) also alters megadrought risk, primarily in the Caribbean and the Amazon. Volcanic influences are felt primarily through enhancing AMO amplitude, as well as alterations in the structure of both ENSO and AMO teleconnections, which lead to differing manifestations of megadrought. These results indicate that characterizing hydroclimate variability requires an improved understanding of both volcanic climate impacts and variations in ENSO/AMO teleconnections.
  • Article
    A role for the equatorial undercurrent in the ocean dynamical thermostat
    (American Meteorological Society, 2018-07-11) Coats, Sloan ; Karnauskas, Kristopher B.
    Reconstructions of sea surface temperature (SST) based on instrumental observations suggest that the equatorial Pacific zonal SST gradient has increased over the twentieth century. While this increase is suggestive of the ocean dynamical thermostat mechanism of Clement et al., observations of a concurrent weakening of the zonal atmospheric (Walker) circulation are not. Here we show, using heat and momentum budget calculations on an ocean reanalysis dataset, that a seasonal weakening of the zonal atmospheric circulation is in fact consistent with cooling in the eastern equatorial Pacific (EEP) and thus an increase in the zonal SST gradient. This cooling is driven by a strengthening Equatorial Undercurrent (EUC) in response to decreased upper-ocean westward momentum associated with weakening equatorial zonal wind stress. This process can help to reconcile the seemingly contradictory twentieth-century trends in the tropical Pacific atmosphere and ocean. Moreover, it is shown that coupled general circulation models (CGCMs) do not correctly simulate this process; we identify a systematic bias in the relationship between changes in equatorial surface zonal wind stress in the EEP and EUC strength that may help to explain why observations and CGCMs have opposing trends in the zonal SST gradient over the twentieth century.
  • Article
    Paleoclimate constraints on the spatiotemporal character of past and future droughts
    (American Meteorological Society, 2020-10-15) Coats, Sloan ; Smerdon, Jason E. ; Stevenson, Samantha ; Fasullo, John T. ; Otto-Bliesner, Bette ; Ault, Toby
    Machine-learning-based methods that identify drought in three-dimensional space–time are applied to climate model simulations and tree-ring-based reconstructions of hydroclimate over the Northern Hemisphere extratropics for the past 1000 years, as well as twenty-first-century projections. Analyzing reconstructed and simulated drought in this context provides a paleoclimate constraint on the spatiotemporal characteristics of simulated droughts. Climate models project that there will be large increases in the persistence and severity of droughts over the coming century, but with little change in their spatial extent. Nevertheless, climate models exhibit biases in the spatiotemporal characteristics of persistent and severe droughts over parts of the Northern Hemisphere. We use the paleoclimate record and results from a linear inverse modeling-based framework to conclude that climate models underestimate the range of potential future hydroclimate states. Complicating this picture, however, are divergent changes in the characteristics of persistent and severe droughts when quantified using different hydroclimate metrics. Collectively our results imply that these divergent responses and the aforementioned biases must be better understood if we are to increase confidence in future hydroclimate projections. Importantly, the novel framework presented herein can be applied to other climate features to robustly describe their spatiotemporal characteristics and provide constraints on future changes to those characteristics.
  • Article
    Contributions of different sea-level processes to high-tide flooding along the US coastline
    (American Geophysical Union, 2022-07-14) Li, Sida ; Wahl, Thomas ; Barroso, Amanda ; Coats, Sloan ; Dangendorf, Sönke ; Piecuch, Christopher G. ; Sun, Qiang ; Thompson, Philip R. ; Liu, Lintao
    Coastal communities across the United States (U.S.) are experiencing an increase in the frequency of high-tide flooding (HTF). This increase is mainly due to sea-level rise (SLR), but other factors such as intra- to inter-annual mean sea level variability, tidal anomalies, and non-tidal residuals also contribute to HTF events. Here we introduce a novel decomposition approach to develop and then analyze a new database of different sea-level components. Those components represent processes that act on various timescales to contribute to HTF along the U.S. coastline. We find that the relative importance of components to HTF events strongly varies in space and time. Tidal anomalies contribute the most along the west and northeast coasts, where HTF events mostly occur in winter. Non-tidal residuals are most important along the Gulf of Mexico and mid-Atlantic coasts, where HTF events mostly occur in fall. We also quantify the minimum number of components that were required to cause HTF events in the past and how this number changed over time. The results highlight that at present, due to SLR, fewer components are needed to combine to push water levels above HTF thresholds, but tidal anomalies alone are still not sufficient to reach HTF thresholds in most locations. Finally, we explore how co-variability between different components leads to compounding effects. In some places, positive correlation between sea-level components leads to significantly more HTF events than would be expected if sea-level components were uncorrelated, whereas in other places negative correlation leads to fewer HTF events.
  • Article
    Hydroclimate dipole drives multi-centennial variability in the western tropical North Atlantic Margin during the middle and late Holocene
    (American Geophysical Union, 2021-07-05) Sullivan, Richard M. ; van Hengstum, Peter J. ; Coats, Sloan ; Donnelly, Jeffrey P. ; Tamalavage, Anne E. ; Winkler, Tyler S. ; Albury, Nancy A.
    Meridional shifts of the North Atlantic Subtropical High (NASH) western edge create a dipole that drives hydroclimate variability in the southeastern United States and Caribbean region. Southwest displacements suppress rainfall in the southern Caribbean. Northwest displacements drive southeast United States and northern Caribbean drying. Projections for the 21st century suggest a more meridionally displaced NASH, which jeopardizes Caribbean island communities dependent on rain-fed aquifers. While recent work indicates that Atlantic and Pacific Ocean-atmosphere variability influenced the NASH during the instrumental period, little is known about NASH behavior and subsequent hydroclimate responses over longer timescales. To address this limitation, we developed a ∼6000-years long rainfall record through the analysis of calcite raft deposits archived within sediments from a coastal sinkhole in the northeast Bahamas (Abaco Island). Increased (decreased) calcite raft deposition provides evidence for increased (decreased) rainfall driven by NASH variability. We use simulations from the Community Earth System Model to support this interpretation. These simulations improve our understanding of NASH behavior on timescales congruous with the reconstruction and suggest an important role for the state of the Pacific Ocean. Furthermore, model simulations and a compilation of regional hydroclimate reconstructions reveal that the NASH-driven dipole dominates northern and southern Caribbean rainfall on centennial timescales. These results bring Holocene Caribbean hydroclimate variability into sharper focus while providing important context for present and future changes to regional climate. Additionally, this study highlights the need for improved future predictions of the state of the Pacific Ocean to best inform water scarcity mitigation strategies for at-risk Caribbean communities.
  • Article
    Winter-to-summer precipitation phasing in southwestern North America : a multicentury perspective from paleoclimatic model-data comparisons
    (John Wiley & Sons, 2015-08-19) Coats, Sloan ; Smerdon, Jason E. ; Seager, Richard ; Griffin, Daniel ; Cook, Benjamin I.
    The phasing of winter-to-summer precipitation anomalies in the North American monsoon (NAM) region 2 (113.25°W–107.75°W, 30°N–35.25°N—NAM2) of southwestern North America is analyzed in fully coupled simulations of the Last Millennium and compared to tree ring reconstructed winter and summer precipitation variability. The models simulate periods with in-phase seasonal precipitation anomalies, but the strength of this relationship is variable on multidecadal time scales, behavior that is also exhibited by the reconstructions. The models, however, are unable to simulate periods with consistently out-of-phase winter-to-summer precipitation anomalies as observed in the latter part of the instrumental interval. The periods with predominantly in-phase winter-to-summer precipitation anomalies in the models are significant against randomness, and while this result is suggestive of a potential for dual-season drought on interannual and longer time scales, models do not consistently exhibit the persistent dual-season drought seen in the dendroclimatic reconstructions. These collective findings indicate that model-derived drought risk assessments may underestimate the potential for dual-season drought in 21st century projections of hydroclimate in the American Southwest and parts of Mexico.
  • Article
    High-tide floods and storm surges during atmospheric rivers on the US West Coast
    (American Geophysical Union, 2022-01-18) Piecuch, Christopher G. ; Coats, Sloan ; Dangendorf, Sönke ; Landerer, Felix ; Reager, John T. ; Thompson, Philip R. ; Wahl, Thomas
    Atmospheric rivers (ARs) cause inland hydrological impacts related to precipitation. However, little is known about coastal hazards associated with these events. We elucidate high-tide floods (HTFs) and storm surges during ARs on the US West Coast during 1980–2016. HTFs and ARs cooccur more often than expected from chance. Between 10% and 63% of HTFs coincide with ARs on average, depending on location. However, interannual-to-decadal variations in HTFs are due more to tides and mean sea-level changes than storminess variability. Only 2–15% of ARs coincide with HTFs, suggesting that ARs typically must cooccur with high tides or mean sea levels to cause HTFs. Storm surges during ARs reflect local wind, pressure, and precipitation forcing: meridional wind and barometric pressure are primary drivers, but precipitation makes secondary contributions. This study highlights the relevance of ARs to coastal impacts, clarifies the drivers of storm surge during ARs, and identifies future research directions.
  • Article
    Cold tropical Pacific Sea surface temperatures during the late sixteenth-century North American megadrought
    (John Wiley & Sons, 2018-09-21) Cook, Benjamin I. ; Williams, A. Park ; Smerdon, Jason E. ; Palmer, Jonathan G. ; Cook, Edward R. ; Stahle, David W. ; Coats, Sloan
    The late 16th‐century North American megadrought was notable for its persistence, extent, intensity, and occurrence after the main interval of megadrought activity during the Medieval Climate Anomaly. Forcing from sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the tropical Pacific is considered a possible driver of megadroughts, and we investigate this hypothesis for the late 16th‐century event using two new 600‐year long hydroclimate field reconstructions from Mexico and Australia. Areas represented by these reconstructions have strong teleconnections to tropical Pacific SSTs, evidenced by the leading principal component in each region explaining ∼40% of local hydroclimate variability and correlating significantly with the boreal winter (December‐January‐February) NINO 3.4 index. Using these two principal components as predictors, we develop a skillful reconstruction of the December‐January‐February NINO 3.4 index. The reconstruction reveals that the late 16th‐century megadrought likely occurred during one of the most persistent and intense periods of cold tropical Pacific SST anomalies of the last 600 years (1566–1590 C.E.; median NINO 3.4 = −0.79 K). This anomalously cold period coincided with a major filling episode for Kati Thanda‐Lake Eyre in Australia, a hydroclimate response dynamically consistent with the reconstructed SST state. These results offer new evidence that tropical Pacific forcing was an important driver of the late 16th‐century North American megadrought over the Southwest and Mexico, highlighting the large amplitude of natural variability that can occur within the climate system.