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Multidecadal variability of the continental precipitation annual amplitude driven by AMO and ENSO

As the water vapor content in the atmosphere scales with temperature, a warmer world is expected to feature an intensification of the hydrological cycle. Work to date has mainly focused on mean precipitation changes, whose connection to climatic modes is elusive at a global scale. Here we show that continental precipitation annual amplitude, which represents the annual range between minimum and maximum (monthly) rainfall, covaries with a linear combination of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation and low-frequency variations in the El Niño–Southern Oscillation on a decadal to multidecadal scale with a correlation coefficient of 0.92 (P < 0.01). The teleconnection is a result of changes in moisture transport in key regions. Reported trends in the annual amplitude of global precipitation in recent decades need to be assessed in light of this substantial low-frequency variability, which could mask or enhance an anthropogenic signal in hydrological cycle changes.

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