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Weather Types and Rainfall over Senegal. Part I: Observational Analysis

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  • 1 CEREGE, Université Aix-Marseille I, Aix en Provence, France, and International Research Institute for Climate and Society, The Earth Institute at Columbia University, Palisades, New York, and Institut Universitaire de France, Paris, France
  • | 2 International Research Institute for Climate and Society, The Earth Institute at Columbia University, Palisades, New York
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Abstract

A k-means cluster analysis is used to summarize unfiltered daily atmospheric variability at regional scale over the western Sahel and eastern tropical North Atlantic during the boreal summer season [July–September (JAS)] 1961–98. The analysis employs zonal and meridional regional wind fields at 925, 700, and 200 hPa from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts reanalyses. An eight-cluster solution is shown to yield an integrated view of the complex regional circulation variability, without the need for explicit time filtering. Five of the weather types identified characterize mostly typical phases of westward-moving wave disturbances, such as African easterly waves (AEWs), and persistent monsoon surges, while the three others describe mostly different stages of the seasonal cycle. Their temporal sequencing describes a systematic monsoonal evolution, together with considerable variability at subseasonal and interannual time scales.

Daily rainfall occurrence at 13 gauge stations in Senegal is found to be moderately well conditioned by the eight weather types, with positive rainfall anomalies usually associated with southerly wind anomalies at 925 hPa. Interannual variability of daily rainfall frequency is shown to depend substantially on the frequency of occurrence of weather types specific to the beginning and end of the JAS season, together with the number of persistent monsoon surges over the western Sahel. In contrast, year-to-year changes in the frequency of the weather types mostly associated with westward-moving waves such as AEWs are not found to influence seasonal frequency of occurrence of daily rainfall substantially.

The fraction of seasonal rainfall variability related to weather-type frequency is found to have a strong relationship with tropical Pacific sea surface temperatures (SSTs): an El Niño (La Niña) event tends to be associated with a higher (lower) frequency of dry weather types during early and late JAS season with enhanced trade winds over the western Sahel, together with lower (higher) prevalence of persistent monsoon surges. The component of seasonal rainfall variability not related to weather-type frequency is characterized by changes in rainfall probability within each weather type, especially those occurring in the core of the JAS season; it exhibits a larger decadal component that is associated with an SST pattern previously identified with recent observed trends in Sahel rainfall.

Corresponding author address: Vincent Moron, Université d’Aix-Marseille I and CEREGE, UMR 6635 CNRS, Europôle Méditerranéen de l’Arbois, BP 80, 13545 Aix en Provence, France. Email: moron@cerege.fr

Abstract

A k-means cluster analysis is used to summarize unfiltered daily atmospheric variability at regional scale over the western Sahel and eastern tropical North Atlantic during the boreal summer season [July–September (JAS)] 1961–98. The analysis employs zonal and meridional regional wind fields at 925, 700, and 200 hPa from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts reanalyses. An eight-cluster solution is shown to yield an integrated view of the complex regional circulation variability, without the need for explicit time filtering. Five of the weather types identified characterize mostly typical phases of westward-moving wave disturbances, such as African easterly waves (AEWs), and persistent monsoon surges, while the three others describe mostly different stages of the seasonal cycle. Their temporal sequencing describes a systematic monsoonal evolution, together with considerable variability at subseasonal and interannual time scales.

Daily rainfall occurrence at 13 gauge stations in Senegal is found to be moderately well conditioned by the eight weather types, with positive rainfall anomalies usually associated with southerly wind anomalies at 925 hPa. Interannual variability of daily rainfall frequency is shown to depend substantially on the frequency of occurrence of weather types specific to the beginning and end of the JAS season, together with the number of persistent monsoon surges over the western Sahel. In contrast, year-to-year changes in the frequency of the weather types mostly associated with westward-moving waves such as AEWs are not found to influence seasonal frequency of occurrence of daily rainfall substantially.

The fraction of seasonal rainfall variability related to weather-type frequency is found to have a strong relationship with tropical Pacific sea surface temperatures (SSTs): an El Niño (La Niña) event tends to be associated with a higher (lower) frequency of dry weather types during early and late JAS season with enhanced trade winds over the western Sahel, together with lower (higher) prevalence of persistent monsoon surges. The component of seasonal rainfall variability not related to weather-type frequency is characterized by changes in rainfall probability within each weather type, especially those occurring in the core of the JAS season; it exhibits a larger decadal component that is associated with an SST pattern previously identified with recent observed trends in Sahel rainfall.

Corresponding author address: Vincent Moron, Université d’Aix-Marseille I and CEREGE, UMR 6635 CNRS, Europôle Méditerranéen de l’Arbois, BP 80, 13545 Aix en Provence, France. Email: moron@cerege.fr

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