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Research Summary

My work in climatology has chiefly contributed to our knowledge of winter climate variability and change across North America, leading to information that has improved our understanding of seasonal and decadal fluctuations of our climate.

The El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon

My initial research efforts surrounded the Canadian climatic modifications associated with the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO), a phenomenon that dominates the year-to-year climate variability across the equatorial Pacific and throughout regions in its close proximity. Over the pasts 20 years climate research has shown that there are but a few areas around the globe that fail to feel the presence of the major ENSO events that reside in the tropical basin for several seasons every 3 to 7 years. The widely known El Niño and La Niña events represent two extreme states of ENSO. The former has become synonymous with an unseasonable warming of the equatorial Pacific, the latter showing opposite environmental signatures. The visibility and true nature of the ENSO phenomenon came to light in the late 1960s and 1970s, with the increasing availability of reliable data of the central Pacific through remote sensing techniques, and as a result of the occurrence of the 1976-77 event that carried major climatic and social consequences around the world. It was not until the late 1990s, however, that the words El Niño and La Niña began to have a meaningful climatic connotation with the general public.

ENSO and Canadian Climate

When I embarked on my dissertation research in 1994, my principal interests surrounded inquiries regarding the climatic impacts, or ENSO teleconnections across western Canada, a vast area spanning west from Manitoba to British Columbia between the US-Canadian border and the Arctic Circle. My work examined in detail the geographic variation of ENSO-related surface air temperature signatures at various time scales, ranging from months, to seasons, to years, as well as the seasonal fluctuation of the strength and definition of these teleconnections.

Long-term fluctuations in the relationships between the equatorial Pacific and U.S. climate

With the recent developments surrounding the theories, hypotheses, and realized climatic and social significance of decadal scale climatic fluctuations in our oceans and the atmosphere, I have become interested in the study of long-term fluctuations in the relationships between the equatorial Pacific and remote climates of North America. The understanding of such connections is known to be critical for seasonal climate forecasting purposes across the area. In my study I examined winter Ohio Valley precipitation, a climatic variable that is very closely tied to the success of the area’s economy.

Interactions between teleconnections – the Arctic Oscillation and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation

Finally, having studied the impact that various atmospheric circulation patterns impose on the weather across North America from one year to the next, and by understanding the influence and importance of patterns of oceanic and atmospheric circulation that equally modify the expected our weather but for several years at a time, I have become interested in exploring the interaction between these patterns of circulation, and the resulting impact on weather conditions. Specifically, I conducted a study that examined the interaction between the Arctic Oscillation (AO), a key contributor to our day-to-day and year-to-year winter climate variability across most regions of the US, and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), a pattern that reflects the slowly-varying state of the Pacific Ocean and the overlying atmosphere, and is known to have large climatic impacts on many areas throughout the country. My specific goal included the examination of the extent to which the winter surface air temperatures associated with the AO change as a result of the PDO.

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