Dee Sylvia G.

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Sylvia G.

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  • Article
    El Niño increases the risk of lower Mississippi River flooding
    (Nature Publishing Group, 2017-05-11) Munoz, Samuel E. ; Dee, Sylvia G.
    Mississippi River floods rank among the costliest climate-related disasters in the world. Improving flood predictability, preparedness, and response at seasonal to decadal time-scales requires an understanding of the climatic controls that govern flood occurrence. Linking flood occurrence to persistent modes of climate variability like the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) has proven challenging, due in part to the limited number of high-magnitude floods available for study in the instrumental record. To augment the relatively short instrumental record, we use output from the Community Earth System Model (CESM) Last Millennium Ensemble (LME) to investigate the dynamical controls on discharge extremes of the lower Mississippi River. We show that through its regional influence on surface water storage, the warm phase of ENSO preconditions the lower Mississippi River to be vulnerable to flooding. In the 6–12 months preceding a flood, El Niño generates a positive precipitation anomaly over the lower Mississippi basin that gradually builds up soil moisture and reduces the basin’s infiltration capacity, thereby elevating the risk of a major flood during subsequent rainstorms. Our study demonstrates how natural climate variability mediates the formation of extreme floods on one of the world’s principal commercial waterways, adding significant predictive ability to near- and long-term forecasts of flood risk.
  • Article
    Lipid biomarker record documents hydroclimatic variability of the Mississippi River Basin during the common era
    (Wiley, 2020-05-30) Munoz, Samuel E. ; Porter, Trevor J. ; Bakkelund, Aleesha ; Nusbaumer, Jesse ; Dee, Sylvia G. ; Hamilton, Brynnydd ; Giosan, Liviu ; Tierney, Jessica E.
    Floods and droughts in the Mississippi River basin are perennial hazards that cause severe economic disruption. Here we develop and analyze a new lipid biomarker record from Horseshoe Lake (Illinois, USA) to evaluate the climatic conditions associated with hydroclimatic extremes that occurred in this region over the last 1,800 years. We present geochemical proxy evidence of temperature and moisture variability using branched glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers (brGDGTs) and plant leaf wax hydrogen isotopic composition (δ2Hwax) and use isotope‐enabled coupled model simulations to diagnose the controls on these proxies. Our data show pronounced warming during the Medieval era (CE 1000–1,600) that corresponds to midcontinental megadroughts. Severe floods on the upper Mississippi River basin also occurred during the Medieval era and correspond to periods of enhanced warm‐season moisture. Our findings imply that projected increases in temperature and warm‐season precipitation could enhance both drought and flood hazards in this economically vital region.