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The Great Plains of North America are susceptible to multi-year droughts, such as the 1930s Dust Bowl. The droughts have been linked to SST variability in the Pacific and Atlantic basins. This observationally rooted analysis shows the SST influence in multi-year droughts and wet episodes over the Great Plains to be significantly more extensive than previously indicated. The remarkable statistical reconstruction of the major hydroclimate episodes attests to the extent of the SST influence in nature, and facilitated evaluation of the basin contributions. We find the Atlantic SSTs to be especially influential in forcing multi-year droughts; often, more than the Pacific ones. The Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO), in particular, contributed the most in two of the four reconstructed episodes (Dust Bowl Spring, 1980s fall wetness), accounting for almost half the precipitation signal in each case.
Our analysis suggests that the La Nina.US Drought paradigm, operative on interannual time scales, has been conferred excessive relevance on decadal time scales in the recent literature.