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What Determines the Position and Intensity of the South Atlantic Anticyclone in Austral Winter?—An AGCM Study

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  • 1 Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California
  • | 2 International Research Institute for Climate and Society, Palisades, New York
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Abstract

The South Atlantic anticyclone is a major feature of the austral winter climatology. An atmospheric general circulation model (AGCM) is used to study the dynamics of the South Atlantic anticyclone by means of control simulations and experiments to investigate sensitivity to prescribed orography, sea surface temperatures, and soil wetness. The South Atlantic anticyclone in the first control simulation is unrealistically zonally elongated and centered too far west—errors typical of coupled ocean–atmosphere GCMs. Results of the sensitivity experiments suggest that these deficiencies are associated with another family of systematic model errors: the overprediction of convection over the tropical land surfaces, particularly over eastern tropical Africa and India, and the concurrent large-scale westward shift in the divergence center at upper levels and the convergence center at lower levels. The results also confirm the important role of South American and African orography in localizing the South Atlantic anticyclone over the ocean. Other factors, however, like the regional zonal gradients of sea surface temperatures, are found to have only a minor impact on the anticyclone. To further substantiate these findings, the wintertime anticyclone is examined using a revised version of the atmospheric GCM. Improvements are found in both the anticyclone as well as the Asia–African summer monsoon circulations. The results demonstrate the existence of links between intensity and structure of the wintertime South Atlantic anticyclone and the major summer monsoons in the Northern Hemisphere.

* Current affiliation: International Pacific Research Center, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii

Corresponding author address: Ingo Richter, International Pacific Research Center, SOEST, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, HI 96822. Email: irichter@hawaii.edu

Abstract

The South Atlantic anticyclone is a major feature of the austral winter climatology. An atmospheric general circulation model (AGCM) is used to study the dynamics of the South Atlantic anticyclone by means of control simulations and experiments to investigate sensitivity to prescribed orography, sea surface temperatures, and soil wetness. The South Atlantic anticyclone in the first control simulation is unrealistically zonally elongated and centered too far west—errors typical of coupled ocean–atmosphere GCMs. Results of the sensitivity experiments suggest that these deficiencies are associated with another family of systematic model errors: the overprediction of convection over the tropical land surfaces, particularly over eastern tropical Africa and India, and the concurrent large-scale westward shift in the divergence center at upper levels and the convergence center at lower levels. The results also confirm the important role of South American and African orography in localizing the South Atlantic anticyclone over the ocean. Other factors, however, like the regional zonal gradients of sea surface temperatures, are found to have only a minor impact on the anticyclone. To further substantiate these findings, the wintertime anticyclone is examined using a revised version of the atmospheric GCM. Improvements are found in both the anticyclone as well as the Asia–African summer monsoon circulations. The results demonstrate the existence of links between intensity and structure of the wintertime South Atlantic anticyclone and the major summer monsoons in the Northern Hemisphere.

* Current affiliation: International Pacific Research Center, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii

Corresponding author address: Ingo Richter, International Pacific Research Center, SOEST, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, HI 96822. Email: irichter@hawaii.edu

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