Skillful Seasonal Prediction of North American Summertime Heat Extremes

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Journal Article

This study shows that the frequency of North American summertime (June-August) heat extremes is skillfully predicted several months in advance in the newly-developed GFDL (Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory) SPEAR (Seamless system for Prediction and EArth system Research) seasonal forecast system. Using a statistical optimization method, the Average Predictability Time, we identify three large-scale components of the frequency of North American summer heat extremes that are predictable with significant correlation skill. One component, which is related to a secular warming trend, shows a continent-wide increase in the frequency of summer heat extremes and is highly predictable at least 9 months in advance. This trend component is likely a response to external radiative forcing. The second component is largely driven by the sea surface temperatures in the North Pacific and North Atlantic and is significantly correlated with the central U.S. soil moisture. The second component shows largest loadings over the central U.S. and is significantly predictable 9 months in advance. The third component, which is related to the central Pacific El NiƱo, displays a dipole structure over North America and is predictable up to 4 months. Potential implications for advancing seasonal predictions of North American summertime heat extremes are discussed.

Journal of Climate
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