Role of moisture transport and recycling in characterizing droughts: Perspectives from two recent U.S. droughts and the CFSv2 system

Tirthankar Roy, J. Alejandro Martinez, Julio E. Herrera-Estrada, Yu Zhang, Francina Dominguez, Alexis Berg, Mike Ek, Eric F. Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We investigate the role of moisture transport and recycling in characterizing two recent drought events in Texas (2011) and the Upper Midwest (2012) by analyzing the precipitation, evapotranspiration, precipitable water, and soil moisture data from the Climate Forecast System version 2 (CFSv2) analysis. Next, we evaluate the CFSv2 forecasts in terms of their ability to capture different drought signals as reflected in the analysis data. Precipitation from both sources is partitioned into recycled and advected components using a moisture accounting-based precipitation recycling model. All four variables reflected drought signals through their anomalously low values, while precipitation and evapotranspiration had the strongest signals. Drought in Texas was dominated by the differences in moisture transport, whereas in the Upper Midwest, the absence of strong precipitation-generating mechanisms was a crucial factor. Reduced advection from the tropical and midlatitude Atlantic contributed to the drought in Texas. The Upper Midwest experienced reduced contributions from recycling, terrestrial sources, the midlatitude Pacific, and the tropical Atlantic. In both cases, long-range moisture transport from oceanic sources was reduced during the corresponding drought years. June and August in Texas and July and August in the Upper Midwest were the driest months, and in both cases, drought was alleviated by the end of August. Moisture from terrestrial sources most likely contributed to alleviating drought intensity in such conditions, even with negative anomalies. The forecasts showed noticeable differences as compared to the analysis for multiple variables in both regions, which could be attributed to several factors as discussed in this paper.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)139-154
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Hydrometeorology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019


  • Atmosphere-land interaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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