Spatial and Temporal Variability in Winter Precipitation across the Western United States during the Satellite Era
The western United States is known for its water shortages due to large seasonal and inter-annual variability of precipitation as well as increasing demand. Climate change will impact the availability of water in the western United States through the modification of precipitation characteristics. Satellite data presents the opportunity to study these changes at a fine, continuous spatial resolution—particularly in places where no traditional ground observations exist. Utilizing the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) 3B42 version 7 precipitation data, this study examines the spatio-temporal changes in precipitation characteristics over the western United States between 1998 and 2015, and their connections with the atmospheric total column water vapor and the El Niño Southern Oscillation during the winter season. The results show that precipitation frequency in the western United States has been decreasing in general, precipitation totals and mean daily intensity are increasing in northwestern United States, but decreasing in the southwest United States during the 18 years of the study time period. Additionally, results show a strong relationship between total column water vapor and the precipitation characteristics, specifically in the southwestern United States.