Advances in Earth Science ›› 2007, Vol. 22 ›› Issue (11): 1191-1207. doi: 10.11867/j.issn.1001-8166.2007.11.1191

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Prolonged Dry Episodes over North America: New Tendencies Emerging During the Last 40 Years

Pavel Ya. Groisman 1,Richard W. Knight 2   

  1. 1.UCAR Project Scientist at National Climatic Data Center, Asheville, North Carolina, USA; 2.STG, Inc., Asheville, North Carolina, USA
  • Received:2007-09-15 Revised:2007-01-01 Online:2007-11-10 Published:2007-11-10

Pavel Ya. Groisman,Richard W. Knight. Prolonged Dry Episodes over North America: New Tendencies Emerging During the Last 40 Years[J]. Advances in Earth Science, 2007, 22(11): 1191-1207.

A disproportionate increase in precipitation coming from intense rain events, in the situation of general warming (thus, an extension of the vegetation period with intensive transpiration) and an insignificant change in total precipitation could lead to an increase in the frequency of potentially serious type of extreme events: prolonged periods without precipitation (even when the mean seasonal rainfall totals increase).  This paper investigates whether this development is already occurring during the past several decades over North America south of 55°N, for the same period when changes in frequency of intense precipitation events are being observed.   Lengthy strings of “dry” days without sizeable (>1.0 mm) precipitation were assessed only during the warm season (defined as a period when mean daily temperature is above the 5℃ threshold) when water is intensively used for transpiration and prolonged periods without sizable rainfall represent a hazard for terrestrial ecosystem's health and agriculture.  During the past four decades, the mean duration of prolonged dry episodes (20-days or longer in southeastern Canada, 1-month or longer in the Eastern United States and along the Gulf Coast of Mexico and 2-months or longer in the Southwestern United States and Northern Mexico) has significantly increased. As a consequence, the return period of 1-month-long dry episodes over the Eastern U.S. has been reduced more than twofold from 15 to 6~7 years.   The longer average duration of dry episodes has occurred during a relatively wet period around most of the continent south of 55°N but is not observed over the Northwestern U.S. and adjacent regions of Southern Canada. 

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