Date of Award:

2016

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Plants, Soils, and Climate

Advisor/Chair:

Simon Wang

Abstract

This document is a summary of research conducted to develop and apply climate analysis tools toward a better understanding of the past and future of hydroclimate variability in the state of Utah. Two pilot studies developed data management and climate analysis tools subsequently applied to our region of interest. The first investigated the role of natural atmospheric forcing in the inter-annual variability of precipitation of the Sahel region in Africa, and found a previously undocumented link with the East Atlantic mode, which explains 29% of variance in regional precipitation. An analysis of output from an operational seasonal climate forecast model revealed a failure in the model to reproduce this linkage, thus highlighting a shortcoming in model performance. The second pilot study studied long-term trends in the strength of the Great Plains low-level jet, an driver of storm development in the region’s wet spring season. Our analysis showed that since 1979 the low-level jet has strengthened as shifted the timing of peak activity, resulting in shifts both in time and location for peak precipitation, possibly the result of anthropogenic forcing. Our third study used a unique tree-ring dataset to create a reconstruction of April 1 snow water equivalent, an important measure of water supply in the Intermountain West, for the state of Utah to 1850. Analysis of the reconstruction shows the majority of snowpack variability occurs monotonically over the whole state at decadal to multidecadal frequencies. The final study evaluated decadal prediction performance of climate models participating in the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project 5. We found that the analyzed models exhibit modest skill in prediction of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and better skill in prediction of global temperature trends post 1960.

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