skip to main content
OSTI.GOV title logo U.S. Department of Energy
Office of Scientific and Technical Information

Title: Extraordinary heat during the 1930s US Dust Bowl and associated large-scale conditions

Abstract

Unusually hot summer conditions occurred during the 1930s over the central United States and undoubtedly contributed to the severity of the Dust Bowl drought. We investigate local and large-scale conditions in association with the extraordinary heat and drought events, making use of novel datasets of observed climate extremes and climate reanalysis covering the past century. We show that the unprecedented summer heat during the Dust Bowl years was likely exacerbated by land-surface feedbacks associated with springtime precipitation deficits. The reanalysis results indicate that these deficits were associated with the coincidence of anomalously warm North Atlantic and Northeast Pacific surface waters and a shift in atmospheric pressure patterns leading to reduced flow of moist air into the central US. Thus, the combination of springtime ocean temperatures and atmospheric flow anomalies, leading to reduced precipitation, also holds potential for enhanced predictability of summer heat events. The results suggest that hot drought, more severe than experienced during the most recent 2011 and 2012 heat waves, is to be expected when ocean temperature anomalies like those observed in the 1930s occur in a world that has seen significant mean warming.

Authors:
; ; ; ; ;
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States). Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility (OLCF)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Science (SC)
OSTI Identifier:
1565415
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Journal Name:
Climate Dynamics
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 46; Journal Issue: 1-2; Journal ID: ISSN 0930-7575
Publisher:
Springer-Verlag
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
Meteorology & Atmospheric Sciences

Citation Formats

Donat, Markus G., King, Andrew D., Overpeck, Jonathan T., Alexander, Lisa V., Durre, Imke, and Karoly, David J. Extraordinary heat during the 1930s US Dust Bowl and associated large-scale conditions. United States: N. p., 2015. Web. doi:10.1007/s00382-015-2590-5.
Donat, Markus G., King, Andrew D., Overpeck, Jonathan T., Alexander, Lisa V., Durre, Imke, & Karoly, David J. Extraordinary heat during the 1930s US Dust Bowl and associated large-scale conditions. United States. doi:10.1007/s00382-015-2590-5.
Donat, Markus G., King, Andrew D., Overpeck, Jonathan T., Alexander, Lisa V., Durre, Imke, and Karoly, David J. Wed . "Extraordinary heat during the 1930s US Dust Bowl and associated large-scale conditions". United States. doi:10.1007/s00382-015-2590-5.
@article{osti_1565415,
title = {Extraordinary heat during the 1930s US Dust Bowl and associated large-scale conditions},
author = {Donat, Markus G. and King, Andrew D. and Overpeck, Jonathan T. and Alexander, Lisa V. and Durre, Imke and Karoly, David J.},
abstractNote = {Unusually hot summer conditions occurred during the 1930s over the central United States and undoubtedly contributed to the severity of the Dust Bowl drought. We investigate local and large-scale conditions in association with the extraordinary heat and drought events, making use of novel datasets of observed climate extremes and climate reanalysis covering the past century. We show that the unprecedented summer heat during the Dust Bowl years was likely exacerbated by land-surface feedbacks associated with springtime precipitation deficits. The reanalysis results indicate that these deficits were associated with the coincidence of anomalously warm North Atlantic and Northeast Pacific surface waters and a shift in atmospheric pressure patterns leading to reduced flow of moist air into the central US. Thus, the combination of springtime ocean temperatures and atmospheric flow anomalies, leading to reduced precipitation, also holds potential for enhanced predictability of summer heat events. The results suggest that hot drought, more severe than experienced during the most recent 2011 and 2012 heat waves, is to be expected when ocean temperature anomalies like those observed in the 1930s occur in a world that has seen significant mean warming.},
doi = {10.1007/s00382-015-2590-5},
journal = {Climate Dynamics},
issn = {0930-7575},
number = 1-2,
volume = 46,
place = {United States},
year = {2015},
month = {4}
}

Works referenced in this record:

Exceptional atmospheric circulation during the “Dust Bowl”
journal, January 2009

  • Brönnimann, S.; Stickler, A.; Griesser, T.
  • Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 36, Issue 8
  • DOI: 10.1029/2009GL037612

The Twentieth Century Reanalysis Project
journal, January 2011

  • Compo, G. P.; Whitaker, J. S.; Sardeshmukh, P. D.
  • Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, Vol. 137, Issue 654
  • DOI: 10.1002/qj.776

Amplification of the North American "Dust Bowl" drought through human-induced land degradation
journal, March 2009

  • Cook, B. I.; Miller, R. L.; Seager, R.
  • Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 106, Issue 13
  • DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0810200106

Forced and unforced variability of twentieth century North American droughts and pluvials
journal, August 2010

  • Cook, Benjamin I.; Cook, Edward R.; Anchukaitis, Kevin J.
  • Climate Dynamics, Vol. 37, Issue 5-6
  • DOI: 10.1007/s00382-010-0897-9

Atmospheric circulation anomalies during two persistent north american droughts: 1932–1939 and 1948–1957
journal, April 2010


Pan-Continental Droughts in North America over the Last Millennium
journal, January 2014


Global Land-Based Datasets for Monitoring Climatic Extremes
journal, July 2013

  • Donat, M. G.; Alexander, L. V.; Yang, H.
  • Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, Vol. 94, Issue 7
  • DOI: 10.1175/BAMS-D-12-00109.1

Updated analyses of temperature and precipitation extreme indices since the beginning of the twentieth century: The HadEX2 dataset: HADEX2-GLOBAL GRIDDED CLIMATE EXTREMES
journal, March 2013

  • Donat, M. G.; Alexander, L. V.; Yang, H.
  • Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, Vol. 118, Issue 5
  • DOI: 10.1002/jgrd.50150

Dependence of Extreme Daily Maximum Temperatures on Antecedent Soil Moisture in the Contiguous United States during Summer
journal, July 2000


Expansion of global drylands under a warming climate
journal, January 2013


Influence of Atlantic sea surface temperatures on persistent drought in North America
journal, May 2010


Distinct causes for two principal U.S. droughts of the 20th century
journal, January 2009

  • Hoerling, Martin; Quan, Xiao-Wei; Eischeid, Jon
  • Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 36, Issue 19
  • DOI: 10.1029/2009GL039860

Atmospheric controls on northeast Pacific temperature variability and change, 1900–2012
journal, September 2014

  • Johnstone, James A.; Mantua, Nathan J.
  • Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 111, Issue 40
  • DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1318371111

The NCEP–NCAR 50–Year Reanalysis: Monthly Means CD–ROM and Documentation
journal, February 2001


Climate impacts of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation
journal, January 2006

  • Knight, Jeff R.; Folland, Chris K.; Scaife, Adam A.
  • Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 33, Issue 17
  • DOI: 10.1029/2006GL026242

GLACE: The Global Land–Atmosphere Coupling Experiment. Part I: Overview
journal, August 2006

  • Koster, Randal D.; Sud, Y. C.; Guo, Zhichang
  • Journal of Hydrometeorology, Vol. 7, Issue 4
  • DOI: 10.1175/JHM510.1

Do extreme climate events require extreme forcings?: EXTREME CLIMATE EVENTS
journal, July 2013

  • Kumar, Arun; Chen, Mingyue; Hoerling, Martin
  • Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 40, Issue 13
  • DOI: 10.1002/grl.50657

Pacific and Atlantic Ocean influences on multidecadal drought frequency in the United States
journal, March 2004

  • McCabe, G. J.; Palecki, M. A.; Betancourt, J. L.
  • Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 101, Issue 12
  • DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0306738101

An improved method of constructing a database of monthly climate observations and associated high-resolution grids
journal, January 2005

  • Mitchell, Timothy D.; Jones, Philip D.
  • International Journal of Climatology, Vol. 25, Issue 6
  • DOI: 10.1002/joc.1181

Hot days induced by precipitation deficits at the global scale
journal, July 2012

  • Mueller, B.; Seneviratne, S. I.
  • Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 109, Issue 31
  • DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1204330109

Key role of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation in 20th century drought and wet periods over the Great Plains: AMO'S ROLE IN GREAT PLAINS DROUGHTS
journal, August 2011

  • Nigam, Sumant; Guan, Bin; Ruiz-Barradas, Alfredo
  • Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 38, Issue 16
  • DOI: 10.1029/2011GL048650

An Overview of the Global Historical Climatology Network Temperature Database
journal, December 1997


Monitoring and Understanding Changes in Heat Waves, Cold Waves, Floods, and Droughts in the United States: State of Knowledge
journal, June 2013

  • Peterson, Thomas C.; Heim, Richard R.; Hirsch, Robert
  • Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, Vol. 94, Issue 6
  • DOI: 10.1175/BAMS-D-12-00066.1

Prospects for Dynamical Prediction of Meteorological Drought
journal, July 2012

  • Quan, Xiao-Wei; Hoerling, Martin P.; Lyon, Bradfield
  • Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology, Vol. 51, Issue 7
  • DOI: 10.1175/JAMC-D-11-0194.1

Global analyses of sea surface temperature, sea ice, and night marine air temperature since the late nineteenth century
journal, January 2003


Atmospheric Blocking and Mean Biases in Climate Models
journal, December 2010

  • Scaife, Adam A.; Woollings, Tim; Knight, Jeff
  • Journal of Climate, Vol. 23, Issue 23
  • DOI: 10.1175/2010JCLI3728.1

GPCC's new land surface precipitation climatology based on quality-controlled in situ data and its role in quantifying the global water cycle
journal, March 2013

  • Schneider, Udo; Becker, Andreas; Finger, Peter
  • Theoretical and Applied Climatology, Vol. 115, Issue 1-2
  • DOI: 10.1007/s00704-013-0860-x

On the Cause of the 1930s Dust Bowl
journal, March 2004


A U.S. CLIVAR Project to Assess and Compare the Responses of Global Climate Models to Drought-Related SST Forcing Patterns: Overview and Results
journal, October 2009

  • Schubert, Siegfried; Gutzler, David; Wang, Hailan
  • Journal of Climate, Vol. 22, Issue 19
  • DOI: 10.1175/2009JCLI3060.1

Atmosphere and Ocean Origins of North American Droughts
journal, June 2014


Would Advance Knowledge of 1930s SSTs Have Allowed Prediction of the Dust Bowl Drought?
journal, July 2008

  • Seager, Richard; Kushnir, Yochanan; Ting, Mingfang
  • Journal of Climate, Vol. 21, Issue 13
  • DOI: 10.1175/2007JCLI2134.1

Investigating soil moisture–climate interactions in a changing climate: A review
journal, May 2010


Atlantic Ocean Forcing of North American and European Summer Climate
journal, July 2005


Decadal atmosphere-ocean variations in the Pacific
journal, March 1994

  • Trenberth, Kevin E.; Hurrell, James W.
  • Climate Dynamics, Vol. 9, Issue 6
  • DOI: 10.1007/BF00204745

On the Role of SST Forcing in the 2011 and 2012 Extreme U.S. Heat and Drought: A Study in Contrasts
journal, June 2014

  • Wang, Hailan; Schubert, Siegfried; Koster, Randal
  • Journal of Hydrometeorology, Vol. 15, Issue 3
  • DOI: 10.1175/JHM-D-13-069.1

Temperature as a potent driver of regional forest drought stress and tree mortality
journal, September 2012

  • Park Williams, A.; Allen, Craig D.; Macalady, Alison K.
  • Nature Climate Change, Vol. 3, Issue 3
  • DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1693

The contribution of reduction in evaporative cooling to higher surface air temperatures during drought: Drought and Temperature
journal, November 2014

  • Yin, Dongqin; Roderick, Michael L.; Leech, Guy
  • Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 41, Issue 22
  • DOI: 10.1002/2014GL062039