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Hoerling M. P., J. K. Eischeid, J. Perlwitz, X.-W. Quan, T. Zhang and P. Pegion (March 2012): On the increased frequency of Mediterranean drought. J. Climate, 25, 2146-2161. doi:10.1175/JCLI-D-11-00296.1

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The land area surrounding the Mediterranean Sea has experienced 10 of the 12 driest winters since 1902 in just the last 20 years. A change in wintertime Mediterranean precipitation toward drier conditions has likely occurred over 1902–2010 whose magnitude cannot be reconciled with internal variability alone. Anthropogenic greenhouse gas and aerosol forcing are key attributable factors for this increased drying, though the external signal explains only half of the drying magnitude. Furthermore, sea surface temperature (SST) forcing during 1902–2010 likely played an important role in the observed Mediterranean drying, and the externally forced drying signal likely also occurs through an SST change signal. The observed wintertime Mediterranean drying over the last century can be understood in a simple framework of the region’s sensitivity to a uniform global ocean warming and to modest changes in the ocean’s zonal and meridional SST gradients. Climate models subjected to a uniform +0.5°C warming of the world oceans induce eastern Mediterranean drying but fail to generate the observed widespread Mediterranean drying pattern. For a +0.5°C SST warming confined to tropical latitudes only, a dry signal spanning the entire Mediterranean region occurs. The simulated Mediterranean drying intensifies further when the Indian Ocean is warmed +0.5°C more than the remaining tropical oceans, an enhanced drying signal attributable to a distinctive atmospheric circulation response resembling the positive phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation. The extent to which these mechanisms and the region’s overall drying since 1902 reflect similar mechanisms operating in association with external radiative forcing are discussed.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: PSD Publications
Divisions: Physical Sciences Division
DOI: 10.1175/JCLI-D-11-00296.1