Multi-decadal variability of soil moisture-temperature coupling over the contiguous United States modulated by Pacific and Atlantic sea surface temperatures Academic Article uri icon


  • 2016 Royal Meteorological Society Regions of strong landatmosphere coupling are often depicted as static in time. However, the mechanisms through which the land surface impacts atmospheric conditions vary on sub-daily to multi-decadal timescales. Therefore, characterizing the long-term variability of landatmosphere interactions may provide a means of predicting when surface-induced extreme temperature events will be more or less likely to occur. We evaluate the coupling strength between soil moisture, as represented by in situ observations and 1-month Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI), and subsequent monthly maximum temperature (TMAX) over the contiguous United States. We find that the utility of SPI as a proxy for soil moisture anomalies is limited to the summer, as the correlations between SPI and TMAX are not significantly related in the other seasons. We examine the variability in summer SPITMAX coupling in four regions of the United States. In general, we find the strongest relationships between SPI and TMAX in the Southern Great Plains. However, our results demonstrate that the coupling strength varies considerably over time in most regions of the United States. The long-term variability in SPITMAX coupling strength is strongly related to the Pacific Decadal Oscillation in the northwest and midwest United States, and the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation in the southeast United States The results of this study suggest that landatmosphere coupling in the contiguous United States is modulated by multi-decadal oscillations in Pacific and Atlantic sea surface temperatures.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 0.25

author list (cited authors)

  • Ford, T. W., Quiring, S. M., & Frauenfeld, O. W.

citation count

  • 12

publication date

  • June 2017