4.1 From Drought to Floods: Communicating Climate Impacts of the Middle East and Southwest Asia Winter 2018/19

Tuesday, 14 January 2020: 10:30 AM
153A (Boston Convention and Exhibition Center)
Andrew D. Lahr, US Air Force, Asheville, NC

The Air Force’s 14th Weather Squadron (14 WS) is the organization responsible for delivering climate information and services to the Department of Defense (DoD). Due to increasing demand for climate information, including drought and precipitation monitoring, the squadron seeks to identify avenues to best deliver decision-grade climate services, illustrated by a case study of the recent Middle East and Southwest Asia winter season. The vast majority of the Middle East and Southwest Asia experienced extreme drought conditions for the last several years, with little occurrence of widespread heavy precipitation, abundant mountain snow, or subsequent significant spring snowmelt. Nonetheless, persistent upper-level ridging across western Europe resulted in a very active storm track from the eastern Mediterranean Sea to the Himalayas during the winter of 2018-2019. The persistent synoptic pattern contributed to well above normal precipitation and an accumulation of near-record snow in mountainous watersheds. This high level of snow water equivalent resulted in significant spring snowmelt and the same regions plagued by a multi-year drought suddenly experienced widespread and devastating flooding not seen in over a decade. An in-depth climate analysis reveals the persistent synoptic pattern can be linked to a weak El Niño event in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. Additionally, periods of anomalously wetter and drier than normal periods can be linked to the Madden-Julian Oscillation. These impacts were well-anticipated and communicated by the 14 WS via climate monitoring and prediction team discussions, incorporation into the website product suite, and responding to several tailored support requests, thus providing environmental intelligence to analysts and decision makers.
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