Mesoscale Moisture Analysis of the North American Monsoon

Ernesto Hugo Berbery Cooperative Institute for Climate Studies, Department of Meteorology, University of Maryland at College Park, College Park, Maryland

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Abstract

The regional circulations that contribute moisture to the large precipitation over northwestern Mexico, the core region of the North American monsoon, are investigated using three summer seasons (July–September 1995–97) of Eta Model mesoscale analyses and forecasts. Analyses are produced by the Eta Model’s own four-dimensional data assimilation system that includes a diverse mix of observations. Comparison of the forecast precipitation with satellite estimates and previous observational studies shows similarity in location, shape, and scale of the patterns over northwestern Mexico; the magnitude of the precipitation over the slopes of the Sierra Madre Occidental is also similar to that from climatologies based on rain gauge observations. Examination of the morning and evening forecast precipitation also reveals agreement with equivalent estimates from high-resolution satellites. Excessive model forecast precipitation is found over the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in eastern Mexico, which seems related, at least in part, to deficiencies in the convective parameterization scheme.

Special attention is given to the diurnal cycle that is needed to resolve the interactions between circulation and precipitation. The Gulf of California exhibits evaporation through the entire diurnal cycle. In contrast, moisture flux divergence has a marked diurnal cycle with the largest magnitude over the gulf during the afternoon;this divergence is associated with the afternoon sea and valley breezes that favor a net transport of moisture toward the western slopes of the Sierra Madre Occidental. At the same time, large convergence of moisture flux develops over the slopes of the Sierra Madre Occidental, and is followed by intense afternoon–evening precipitation. The reverse circulation during nighttime and early morning results in moisture flux convergence near the coastline and over water, where early morning precipitation develops.

Large divergence of moisture flux is found over the northern sector of the Gulf of California at all times, and it results almost equally from transients and the time mean flow. The time mean flow is characterized by a nighttime and predawn low-level jet whose intensity is weaker than the Great Plains counterpart, but still appears to transport a significant amount of moisture into the southwestern United States. Northward transport of moisture is also accomplished by the transient fluxes that include, but are not limited to, the episodic northward moist surges frequently discussed in the literature.

Corresponding author address: Ernesto Hugo Berbery, Department of Meteorology/CICS, 3427 Computer and Space Sciences Building, University of Maryland at College Park, College Park, MD 20742-2425.

Email: berbery@atmos.umd.edu

Abstract

The regional circulations that contribute moisture to the large precipitation over northwestern Mexico, the core region of the North American monsoon, are investigated using three summer seasons (July–September 1995–97) of Eta Model mesoscale analyses and forecasts. Analyses are produced by the Eta Model’s own four-dimensional data assimilation system that includes a diverse mix of observations. Comparison of the forecast precipitation with satellite estimates and previous observational studies shows similarity in location, shape, and scale of the patterns over northwestern Mexico; the magnitude of the precipitation over the slopes of the Sierra Madre Occidental is also similar to that from climatologies based on rain gauge observations. Examination of the morning and evening forecast precipitation also reveals agreement with equivalent estimates from high-resolution satellites. Excessive model forecast precipitation is found over the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in eastern Mexico, which seems related, at least in part, to deficiencies in the convective parameterization scheme.

Special attention is given to the diurnal cycle that is needed to resolve the interactions between circulation and precipitation. The Gulf of California exhibits evaporation through the entire diurnal cycle. In contrast, moisture flux divergence has a marked diurnal cycle with the largest magnitude over the gulf during the afternoon;this divergence is associated with the afternoon sea and valley breezes that favor a net transport of moisture toward the western slopes of the Sierra Madre Occidental. At the same time, large convergence of moisture flux develops over the slopes of the Sierra Madre Occidental, and is followed by intense afternoon–evening precipitation. The reverse circulation during nighttime and early morning results in moisture flux convergence near the coastline and over water, where early morning precipitation develops.

Large divergence of moisture flux is found over the northern sector of the Gulf of California at all times, and it results almost equally from transients and the time mean flow. The time mean flow is characterized by a nighttime and predawn low-level jet whose intensity is weaker than the Great Plains counterpart, but still appears to transport a significant amount of moisture into the southwestern United States. Northward transport of moisture is also accomplished by the transient fluxes that include, but are not limited to, the episodic northward moist surges frequently discussed in the literature.

Corresponding author address: Ernesto Hugo Berbery, Department of Meteorology/CICS, 3427 Computer and Space Sciences Building, University of Maryland at College Park, College Park, MD 20742-2425.

Email: berbery@atmos.umd.edu

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