Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Department of


Date of this Version




DOI: 10.1175/2007JCLI2005.1


2008 American Meteorological Society


The North American summer monsoon holds the key to understanding warm season rainfall variations in the region from northern Mexico to the Southwest and the central United States. Studies of the monsoon have pictured mosaic submonsoonal regions and different processes influencing monsoon variations. Among the influencing processes is the “land memory,” showing primarily the influence of the antecedent winter season precipitation (snow) anomalies in the Northwest on summer rainfall anomalies in the South- west. More intriguingly, the land memory has been found to vary at the multidecadal time scale. This memory change may actually reflect multidecadal variations of the atmospheric circulation in the North American monsoon region. This notion is examined in this study by first establishing the North American monsoon regimes from relationships of summer rainfall variations in central and western North America, and then quantifying their variations at the multidecadal scale in the twentieth century. Results of these analyses show two monsoon regimes: one featured with consistent variations in summer rainfall in west Mexico and the Southwest and an opposite variation pattern in the central United States, and the other with consistent rainfall variations in west Mexico and the central United States but different from the variations in the southwest United States. These regimes have alternated at multidecadal scales in the twentieth century.

This alternation of the regimes is found to be in phase with the North Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO). In warm and cold phases of the AMO, distinctive circulation anomalies are found in central and western North America, where lower than average pressure prevailed in the warm phase and the opposite anomaly in the cold phase. Associated wind anomalies configured different patterns for moisture transport and may have contributed to the development and variation of the monsoon regimes. These results indicate that investigations of the effects of AMO and its interaction with the North Pacific circulations could lead to a better understanding of the North American monsoon variations.