A changing climatology of precipitation persistence across the United States using information-based measures

Allison E. Goodwell, Praveen Kumar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The sequencing, or persistence, of daily precipitation influences variability in streamflow, soil moisture, and vegetation states. As these factors influence water availability and ecosystem health, it is important to identify spatial and temporal trends in precipitation persistence and predictability. We take an information theoretic perspective to address regional and temporal trends in daily patterns, based on the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) gridded gauge-based dataset of daily precipitation over the continental United States from 1948 to 2018. We apply information measures to binary sequences of precipitation occurrence to quantify uncertainty, predictability in the form of lagged mutual information between the current state and two time-lagged histories, and associated dominant time scales. We find that this information-based predictability is highest in the western United States, but the relative influence of longer lagged histories in comparison to a 1-day history is highest in the east. Information characteristics and time scales vary seasonally and regionally and constitute an information climatology that can be compared with traditional indices of precipitation and climate. Trend analyses over the 70-yr time period also show varying regional characteristics that differ between seasons. In addition to increasing precipitation frequency over most of the country, we detect increasing and decreasing predictability in western and eastern regions, respectively, with average trend magnitudes corresponding to shifts in predictability ranging from-50% to 110%. This new perspective on precipitation persistence has broad potential to link shifts in climate and weather to patterns and predictability of related environmental factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1649-1666
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Hydrometeorology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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