Dettinger, M. D., D. R. Cayan, H. F. Diaz, and D. M. Meko, 1998: North-south precipitation patterns in western North America on interannual-to-decadal time-scales. J. Climate, 11, 3095-3111.
The overall amount of precipitation deposited along the West Coast and western cordillera of North America from 25° to 55°N varies from year to year, and superimposed on this domain-average variability are varying north-south contrasts on timescales from at least interannual to interdecadal. In order to better understand the north-south precipitation contrasts, their interannual and decadal variations are studied in terms of how much they affect overall precipitation amounts and how they are related to large-scale climatic patterns. Spatial empirical orthogonal functions (EOFs) and spatial moments (domain average, central latitude, and latitudinal spread) of zonally averaged precipitation anomalies along the westernmost parts of North America are analyzed, and each is correlated with global sea level pressure (SLP) and sea surface temperature series, on interannual (defined here as 3-7 yr) and decadal (>7 yr) timescales. The interannual band considered here corresponds to timescales that are particularly strong in tropical climate variations and thus is expected to contain much precipitation variability that is related to El Niño-Southern Oscillation; the decadal scale is defined so as to capture the whole range of long-term climatic variations affecting western North America.
Zonal EOFs of the interannual and decadal filtered versions of the zonal-precipitation series are remarkably similar. At both timescales, two leading EOFs describe 1) a north-south seesaw of precipitation pivoting near 40°N and 2) variations in precipitation near 40°N, respectively. The amount of overall precipitation variability is only about 10% of the mean and is largely determined by precipitation variations around 40°-45°N and most consistently influenced by nearby circulation patterns; in this sense, domain-average precipitation is closely related to the second EOF. The central latitude and latitudinal spread of precipitation distributions are strongly influenced by precipitation variations in the southern parts of western North America and are closely related to the first EOF. Central latitude of precipitation moves south (north) with tropical warming (cooling) in association with midlatitude western Pacific SLP variations, on both interannual and decadal timescales. Regional patterns and zonal averages of precipitation-sensitive tree-ring series are used to corroborate these patterns and to extend them into the past and appear to share much long- and short-term information with the instrumentally based zonal precipitation EOFs and moments.