Ocean and land forcing of the record-breaking Dust Bowl heatwaves across central United States

Cowan, Tim and Hegerl, Gabriele C. and Schurer, Andrew and Tett, Simon F. B. and Vautard, Robert and Yiou, Pascal and Jezequel, Aglae and Otto, Friederike E. L. and Harrington, Luke J. and Ng, Benjamin (2020) Ocean and land forcing of the record-breaking Dust Bowl heatwaves across central United States. Nature Communications, 11 (1):2870.

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Abstract

The severe drought of the 1930s Dust Bowl decade coincided with record-breaking summer heatwaves that contributed to the socio-economic and ecological disaster over North America’s Great Plains. It remains unresolved to what extent these exceptional heatwaves, hotter than in historically forced coupled climate model simulations, were forced by sea surface temperatures (SSTs) and exacerbated through human-induced deterioration of land cover. Here we show, using an atmospheric-only model, that anomalously warm North Atlantic SSTs enhance heatwave activity through an association with drier spring conditions resulting from weaker moisture transport. Model devegetation simulations, that represent the wide-spread exposure of bare soil in the 1930s, suggest human activity fueled stronger and more frequent heatwaves through greater evaporative drying in the warmer months. This study highlights the potential for the amplification of naturally occurring extreme events like droughts by vegetation feedbacks to create more extreme heatwaves in a warmer world.


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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/ licenses/by/4.0/. © The Author(s) 2020.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Institute for Life Sciences and the Environment - Centre for Applied Climate Sciences (1 Aug 2018 -)
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Institute for Life Sciences and the Environment - Centre for Applied Climate Sciences (1 Aug 2018 -)
Date Deposited: 16 Jun 2020 00:00
Last Modified: 15 Sep 2020 03:22
Uncontrolled Keywords: temperature; extreme event; heat waves; precipitation indices; Dust Bowl drought; drought
Fields of Research (2008): 04 Earth Sciences > 0401 Atmospheric Sciences > 040107 Meteorology
04 Earth Sciences > 0401 Atmospheric Sciences > 040102 Atmospheric Dynamics
04 Earth Sciences > 0406 Physical Geography and Environmental Geoscience > 040604 Natural Hazards
04 Earth Sciences > 0401 Atmospheric Sciences > 040105 Climatology (excl.Climate Change Processes)
Fields of Research (2020): 37 EARTH SCIENCES > 3701 Atmospheric sciences > 370108 Meteorology
37 EARTH SCIENCES > 3701 Atmospheric sciences > 370105 Atmospheric dynamics
37 EARTH SCIENCES > 3709 Physical geography and environmental geoscience > 370903 Natural hazards
37 EARTH SCIENCES > 3702 Climate change science > 370202 Climatology
Identification Number or DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-16676-w
URI: http://eprints.usq.edu.au/id/eprint/38802

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