ENSO Impact on Winter Precipitation in the Southeast United States through a Synoptic Climate Approach

Jian Hua Qian, Brian Viner, Stephen Noble, David Werth, Cuihua Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The ENSO impact on winter precipitation in the Southeast United States was analyzed from the perspective of daily weather types (WTs). We calculated the dynamic contribution associated with the change in frequency of the WTs and the thermodynamic contribution due to changes in the spatial patterns of the environmental fields of the WTs. Six WTs were obtained using a k-means clustering analysis of 850 hPa winds in reanalysis data from November to February of 1948–2022. All the WTs can only persist for a few days. The most frequent winter weather type is WT1 (shallow trough in Eastern U.S.), which can persist or likely transfer to WT4 (Mississippi River Valley ridge). WT1 becomes less frequent in El Niño years, while the frequency of WT4 does not change much. WTs 2–6 correspond to a loop of eastward propagating waves with troughs and ridges in the mid-latitude westerlies. Three WTs with a deep trough in the Southeast U.S., which are WT2 (east coast trough), WT3 (off east coast trough) and WT6 (plains trough), become more frequent in El Niño years. The more frequent deep troughs (WTs 2, 3 and 6) and less frequent shallow trough (WT1) result in above-normal precipitation in the coastal Southeast U.S. in the winter of El Niño years. WT5 (off coast Carolina High), with maximum precipitation extending from Mississippi Valley to the Great Lakes, becomes less frequent in El Niño years, which corresponds to the below-normal precipitation from the Great Lakes to Upper Mississippi and Ohio River Valley in El Niño years, and vice versa in La Niña years. The relative contribution of the thermodynamic and dynamic contribution is location dependent. On the east coast, the two contributions are similar in magnitude.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1159
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • El Niño
  • winter weather types

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Atmospheric Science


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