Trend and variability of China precipitation in spring and summer: linkage to sea-surface temperatures

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Abstract

Observational records in the past 50 years show an upward trend of boreal-summer precipitation over central eastern China and a downward trend over northern China. During boreal spring, the trend is upward over southeastern China and downward over central eastern China. This study explores the forcing mechanism of these trends in association with the global sea-surface temperature (SST) variations on the interannual and interdecadal time scales.

Results based on singular value decomposition (SVD) analyses show that the interannual variability of China precipitation in boreal spring and summer can be well defined by two centres of action for each season, which are covarying with two interannual modes of SSTs. The first SVD modes of precipitation in spring and summer, which are centred in southeastern China and northern China respectively, are linked to an El Niño–southern oscillation (ENSO)-like mode of SSTs. The second SVD modes of precipitation in both seasons are confined to central eastern China, and are primarily linked to SST variations over the warm pool and the Indian Ocean. Features of the anomalous 850 hPa winds and 700 hPa geopotential height corresponding to these modes support a physical mechanism that explains the causal links between the modal variations of precipitation and SSTs.

On the decadal and longer time scale, similar causal links are found between the same modes of precipitation and SSTs, except for the case of springtime precipitation over central eastern China. For this case, while the interannual mode of precipitation is positively correlated with the interannual variations of SSTs over the warm pool and Indian Ocean, the interdecadal mode is negatively correlated with a different SST mode, i.e. the North Pacific mode. The latter is responsible for the observed downward trend of springtime precipitation over central eastern China. For all other cases, both the interannual and interdecadal variations of precipitation can be explained by the same mode of SSTs. The upward trend of springtime precipitation over southeastern China and downward trend of summertime precipitation over northern China are attributable to the warming trend of the ENSO-like mode. The recent frequent summertime floods over central eastern China are linked to the warming trend of SSTs over the warm pool and Indian Ocean. Copyright © 2004 Royal Meteorological Society

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