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Midsummer Gap Winds and Low-Level Circulation over the Eastern Tropical Pacific

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  • 1 Centro de Ciencias de la Atmosfera, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, Mexico City, Mexico
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Abstract

The low-level seasonal and intraseasonal wind variability over the northeastern tropical Pacific (NETP), its relationship with other variables, and the connection with large- and middle-scale atmospheric patterns are analyzed using a suite of datasets. Quick Scatterometer (QuikSCAT) wind data show that the low-level circulation over the NETP is mainly affected by the northerly trades, the southerly trades, and the wind jets crossing through the Tehuantepec, Papagayo, and Panama mountain gaps. The seasonal and intraseasonal evolution of these wind systems determines the circulation patterns over the NETP, showing predominant easterly winds in winter and early spring and wind direction reversals in summer over the central region of the NETP. During summer, when southerly trades are the strongest and reach their maximum northward penetration, weak westerlies are observed in June, easterlies in July–August, despite that strong southerlies tend to turn eastward, and again westerlies in September–October. This circulation pattern appears to be related to the Tehuantepec and Papagayo jets, which slightly strengthen during midsummer favored by the westward elongation and intensification of the Azores–Bermuda high (ABH). This ABH evolution induces an across-gap pressure gradient over the Isthmus of Tehuantepec favoring the generation of the jet and a meridional sea level pressure (SLP) gradient in the western Caribbean that favors the funneling of the trade winds through the Papagayo gap. The SLP pattern causing the gap winds in winter is different than in midsummer, being the southeastward intrusion of high pressure systems coming from the northwest, the main cause of the large meridional SLP gradients in Tehuantepec and the western Caribbean.

The westward low-level circulation observed over the central-eastern region of the NETP during midsummer induces westward moisture fluxes in the lower layers of the atmosphere, displaces convergence areas away from the coasts, and confines the relatively strong convergence in the easternmost NETP to the south of the area of influence of the wind jets and associated easterlies, contributing to the development of the midsummer drought observed in southern Mexico and Central America.

Corresponding author address: Rosario Romero-Centeno, Centro de Ciencias de la Atmosfera, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, Circuito Exterior s/n, Ciudad Universitaria Coyoacan 04510, Mexico City, D. F., Mexico. Email: rosario@atmosfera.unam.mx

Abstract

The low-level seasonal and intraseasonal wind variability over the northeastern tropical Pacific (NETP), its relationship with other variables, and the connection with large- and middle-scale atmospheric patterns are analyzed using a suite of datasets. Quick Scatterometer (QuikSCAT) wind data show that the low-level circulation over the NETP is mainly affected by the northerly trades, the southerly trades, and the wind jets crossing through the Tehuantepec, Papagayo, and Panama mountain gaps. The seasonal and intraseasonal evolution of these wind systems determines the circulation patterns over the NETP, showing predominant easterly winds in winter and early spring and wind direction reversals in summer over the central region of the NETP. During summer, when southerly trades are the strongest and reach their maximum northward penetration, weak westerlies are observed in June, easterlies in July–August, despite that strong southerlies tend to turn eastward, and again westerlies in September–October. This circulation pattern appears to be related to the Tehuantepec and Papagayo jets, which slightly strengthen during midsummer favored by the westward elongation and intensification of the Azores–Bermuda high (ABH). This ABH evolution induces an across-gap pressure gradient over the Isthmus of Tehuantepec favoring the generation of the jet and a meridional sea level pressure (SLP) gradient in the western Caribbean that favors the funneling of the trade winds through the Papagayo gap. The SLP pattern causing the gap winds in winter is different than in midsummer, being the southeastward intrusion of high pressure systems coming from the northwest, the main cause of the large meridional SLP gradients in Tehuantepec and the western Caribbean.

The westward low-level circulation observed over the central-eastern region of the NETP during midsummer induces westward moisture fluxes in the lower layers of the atmosphere, displaces convergence areas away from the coasts, and confines the relatively strong convergence in the easternmost NETP to the south of the area of influence of the wind jets and associated easterlies, contributing to the development of the midsummer drought observed in southern Mexico and Central America.

Corresponding author address: Rosario Romero-Centeno, Centro de Ciencias de la Atmosfera, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, Circuito Exterior s/n, Ciudad Universitaria Coyoacan 04510, Mexico City, D. F., Mexico. Email: rosario@atmosfera.unam.mx

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