El Niño-like teleconnection increases California precipitation in response to warming

Future California (CA) precipitation projections, including those from the most recent Climate Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5), remain uncertain. This uncertainty is related to several factors, including relatively large internal climate variability, model shortcomings, and because CA lies within a transition zone, where mid-latitude regions are expected to become wetter and subtropical regions drier. Here, we use a multitude of models to show CA may receive more precipitation in the future under a business-as-usual scenario. The boreal winter season-when most of the CA precipitation increase occurs-is associated with robust changes in the mean circulation reminiscent of an El Niño teleconnection. Using idealized simulations with two different models, we further show that warming of tropical Pacific sea surface temperatures accounts for these changes. Models that better simulate the observed El Niño-CA precipitation teleconnection yield larger, and more consistent increases in CA precipitation through the twenty-first century.


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