Evaluating the Distribution of Water Resources in Western Canada using a Synoptic Climatological Approach

Date

2013-12-24

Authors

Newton, Brandi Wreatha

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Abstract

The atmospheric drivers of winter and summer surface climate in western Canada are evaluated using a synoptic climatological approach. Winter snow accumulation provides the largest contribution to annual streamflow of the north-flowing Mackenzie and east-flowing Saskatchewan Rivers, while summer water availability is primarily a product of basin-wide precipitation and evapotranspiration. A catalogue of dominant synoptic types is produced for winter (Nov-Apr) and summer (May-Oct) using the method of Self-Organizing Maps. Water availability, quantified through high-resolution gridded temperature and precipitation data, associated with these synoptic types is then determined. The frequency of dominant types during positive/negative phases of the Southern Oscillation Index, Pacific Decadal Oscillation, and Arctic Oscillation reveal the atmospheric processes through which these teleconnections influence surface climate. Results from the winter analysis are more coherent than summer, with strong relationships found between synoptic types, teleconnections, and surface climate. Although not as strong, links between summer synoptic types and water availability also exist. Additionally, time-series analysis of synoptic type frequencies indicates a trend toward circulation patterns that produce warmer, drier winters as well as an earlier onset and extension of the summer season. This study increases our understanding of the atmospheric processes controlling the distribution of water resources in western Canada.

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Keywords

synoptic climatology, western Canada, water resources, climate change, Self-Organizing Maps, El Nino-Southern Oscillation, Pacific Decadal Oscillation, Pacific North American pattern, Arctic Oscillation, mid-troposphere

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