Terrestrial Influence on the Annual Cycle of the Atlantic ITCZ in an AGCM Coupled to a Slab Ocean Model

M. Biasutti Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

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D. S. Battisti Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

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E. S. Sarachik Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

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Abstract

An atmospheric GCM coupled to a slab ocean model is used to investigate how temperature and precipitation over South America and Africa affect the annual cycle of the Atlantic ITCZ. The main conclusion of this study is that variations in precipitation and temperature forced by the annual cycle of insolation over the continents are as important as variations in insolation over the ocean and in ocean heat transport convergence in forcing the annual march of the Atlantic ITCZ observed in the control simulation. The processes involved are as follows.

The intensity of precipitation over land affects the stability of the atmosphere over the tropical Atlantic Ocean, and thus modulates the intensity of deep convection and convergence in the ITCZ. Both the imposed changes in land precipitation and the subsequent changes in the strength of the ITCZ drive surface wind anomalies, thereby changing the meridional gradient of SST in proximity of the basic-state ITCZ. Finally, atmosphere–ocean feedbacks cause the ITCZ to be displaced meridionally.

Seasonal changes in surface temperature in the Sahara also have a strong influence on the position of the Atlantic ITCZ. Cold wintertime temperatures produce high surface pressure anomalies over Africa and into the tropical North Atlantic and drive stronger trade winds, which cool the North Atlantic by evaporation. The coupled interactions between the SST, the wind, and the ITCZ intensify the anomalies in the equatorial region, causing the southward displacement of the ITCZ in boreal spring.

Corresponding author address: Michela Biasutti, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University—Oceanography, 61 Route 9W, P.O. Box 1000, Palisades, NY 10968-8000. Email: biasutti@ldeo.columbia.edu

Abstract

An atmospheric GCM coupled to a slab ocean model is used to investigate how temperature and precipitation over South America and Africa affect the annual cycle of the Atlantic ITCZ. The main conclusion of this study is that variations in precipitation and temperature forced by the annual cycle of insolation over the continents are as important as variations in insolation over the ocean and in ocean heat transport convergence in forcing the annual march of the Atlantic ITCZ observed in the control simulation. The processes involved are as follows.

The intensity of precipitation over land affects the stability of the atmosphere over the tropical Atlantic Ocean, and thus modulates the intensity of deep convection and convergence in the ITCZ. Both the imposed changes in land precipitation and the subsequent changes in the strength of the ITCZ drive surface wind anomalies, thereby changing the meridional gradient of SST in proximity of the basic-state ITCZ. Finally, atmosphere–ocean feedbacks cause the ITCZ to be displaced meridionally.

Seasonal changes in surface temperature in the Sahara also have a strong influence on the position of the Atlantic ITCZ. Cold wintertime temperatures produce high surface pressure anomalies over Africa and into the tropical North Atlantic and drive stronger trade winds, which cool the North Atlantic by evaporation. The coupled interactions between the SST, the wind, and the ITCZ intensify the anomalies in the equatorial region, causing the southward displacement of the ITCZ in boreal spring.

Corresponding author address: Michela Biasutti, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University—Oceanography, 61 Route 9W, P.O. Box 1000, Palisades, NY 10968-8000. Email: biasutti@ldeo.columbia.edu

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