Droughts, which occur as a part of natural climate variability, are expected to increase in frequency and/or severity with global climate change. An improved understanding of droughts and their association with atmospheric circulation will add to the knowledge about the controls on drought, and the ways in which changes in climate may impact droughts. In this study, 1) major drought patterns across the United States have been defined, 2) the robustness of these patterns over time using tree-ring-based drought reconstructions have been evaluated, and 3) the drought patterns with respect to global atmospheric pressure patterns have been assessed. From this simple assessment, it is suggested that there are two major drought patterns across North America, which together account for about 30% of the total variance in drought patterns - one resembles the classic ENSO teleconnection, and the other displays an east-west drought dipole. The same two patterns are evident in the instrumental data and the reconstructed drought data for two different periods, 1404-2003 and 900-1350. The 500-mb circulation patterns associated with the two drought patterns suggest that the controls on drought may come from both Northern Hemisphere and tropical sources. The two drought patterns, and presumably their associated circulation patterns, vary in strength over time, indicating the combined effects of the two patterns on droughts over the past millennium.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4336-4347
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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