Weather map classification as a tool for the hydroclimatological community

Author(s): Siegert, C.

Weather map classification, also known as synoptic classification, is a tool used to simplify diverse atmospheric variables into a single weather type, which allows researchers to relate large-scale atmospheric circulation to regional- and small-scale surface environments. Synoptic classification has many applications for understanding the response of the surface environment to atmospheric forcings as evidenced in the range of atmospheric pollutant studies. However, full applicability has been under-utilized to date, especially in disciplines such as hydroclimatology, which are intimately linked to atmospheric inputs. Using a combination of principal components analysis and cluster analysis, a daily synoptic calendar can be developed from readily available atmospheric measurements including temperature, sea level pressure, wind, and cloud cover. These methods are not site specific and may serve as guidance for researchers who wish to employ synoptic classification techniques in their own region of interest.

Case studies are presented to demonstrate the utility of synoptic techniques in hydroclimatological applications including precipitation characteristics, soil moisture, and stream discharge. These examples illustrate how synoptic typing can be used (1) to quantify direct relationships between atmospheric patterns and precipitation characteristics or (2) to quantify relationships further removed in the hydrologic cycle such as atmospheric patterns and stream discharge. The cascade of processes in the hydrologic cycle are complex and considerable effort has been made to understand, model, and predict these relationships. As such, synoptic classification may be applied to a broad array of hydrological research questions and warrants further consideration by the hydroclimatological community.

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