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Winter and Summer Structure of the Caribbean Low-Level Jet

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  • 1 Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center, and Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science, University of Maryland, College Park, College Park, Maryland
  • 2 Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science, and Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center, University of Maryland, College Park, College Park, Maryland
  • 3 Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science, University of Maryland, College Park, College Park, Maryland
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Abstract

The Caribbean region shows maxima in easterly winds greater than 12 m s−1 at 925 hPa in July and February, herein referred to as the summer and winter Caribbean low-level jet (LLJ), respectively. It is important to understand the controls and influences of the Caribbean LLJ because other LLJs have been observed to be related to precipitation variability. The purpose of this study is to identify the mechanisms of the Caribbean LLJ formation and variability and their association to the regional hydroclimate. Climatological fields are calculated from the North American Regional Reanalysis and the 40-yr ECMWF Re-Analysis from 1979 to 2001. It is observed that the low-level (925 hPa) zonal wind over the Caribbean basin has a semiannual cycle and an interannual variability, with greater standard deviation during boreal summer. The semiannual cycle has peaks in February and July, which are regional amplifications of the large-scale circulation. High mountains to the south of the Caribbean Sea influence the air temperature meridional gradient, providing a baroclinic structure that favors a stronger easterly wind. The boreal summer strengthening of the Caribbean LLJ is associated with subsidence over the subtropical North Atlantic from the May-to-July shift of the ITCZ and the evolution of the Central American monsoon. Additionally, the midsummer minimum of Caribbean precipitation is related to the Caribbean LLJ through greater moisture flux divergence. From May to September the moisture carried by the Caribbean LLJ into the Gulf of Mexico is strongest. The summer interannual variability of the Caribbean LLJ is due to the variability of the meridional pressure gradient across the Caribbean basin, influenced by tropical Pacific variability during summer.

Corresponding author address: Ernesto Muñoz, Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies, University of Miami, 4600 Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami, FL 33149. Email: ernesto.munoz@noaa.gov

Abstract

The Caribbean region shows maxima in easterly winds greater than 12 m s−1 at 925 hPa in July and February, herein referred to as the summer and winter Caribbean low-level jet (LLJ), respectively. It is important to understand the controls and influences of the Caribbean LLJ because other LLJs have been observed to be related to precipitation variability. The purpose of this study is to identify the mechanisms of the Caribbean LLJ formation and variability and their association to the regional hydroclimate. Climatological fields are calculated from the North American Regional Reanalysis and the 40-yr ECMWF Re-Analysis from 1979 to 2001. It is observed that the low-level (925 hPa) zonal wind over the Caribbean basin has a semiannual cycle and an interannual variability, with greater standard deviation during boreal summer. The semiannual cycle has peaks in February and July, which are regional amplifications of the large-scale circulation. High mountains to the south of the Caribbean Sea influence the air temperature meridional gradient, providing a baroclinic structure that favors a stronger easterly wind. The boreal summer strengthening of the Caribbean LLJ is associated with subsidence over the subtropical North Atlantic from the May-to-July shift of the ITCZ and the evolution of the Central American monsoon. Additionally, the midsummer minimum of Caribbean precipitation is related to the Caribbean LLJ through greater moisture flux divergence. From May to September the moisture carried by the Caribbean LLJ into the Gulf of Mexico is strongest. The summer interannual variability of the Caribbean LLJ is due to the variability of the meridional pressure gradient across the Caribbean basin, influenced by tropical Pacific variability during summer.

Corresponding author address: Ernesto Muñoz, Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies, University of Miami, 4600 Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami, FL 33149. Email: ernesto.munoz@noaa.gov

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