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The West African Monsoon Dynamics. Part III: The Quasi-Biweekly Zonal Dipole

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  • 1 LMD/IPSL, CNRS, Ecole Polytechnique, Palaiseau, France
  • | 2 LOCEAN/IPSL, IRD, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris, France
  • | 3 Physical Sciences Division, NOAA/Earth System Research Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado
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Abstract

This paper presents an investigation of the mechanisms giving rise to the main intraseasonal mode of convection in the African monsoon during northern summer, here identified as the quasi-biweekly zonal dipole (QBZD). The QBZD is primarily characterized by a quasi-stationary zonal dipole of convection whose dimension is larger than the West African monsoon domain, with its two poles centered along the Guinean coast and between 30° and 60°W in the equatorial Atlantic. The QBZD dynamical processes within the Atlantic–Africa domain are examined in some detail. The QBZD has a dipole pattern associated with a Walker-type circulation in the near-equatorial zonal plane. It is controlled both by equatorial atmospheric dynamics through a Kelvin wave–like disturbance propagating eastward between its two poles and by land surface processes over Africa, inducing combined fluctuations in surface temperatures, surface pressure, and low-level zonal winds off the coast of West Africa. When convection is at a minimum over central and West Africa, a lack of cloud cover results in higher net shortwave flux at the surface, which increases surface temperatures and lowers surface pressures. This creates an east–west pressure gradient at the latitude of both the ITCZ (10°N) and the Saharan heat low (20°N), leading to an increase in eastward moisture advection inland. The arrival from the Atlantic of the positive pressure signal associated with a Kelvin wave pattern amplifies the low-level westerly wind component and the moisture advection inland, leading to an increase in convective activity over central and West Africa. Then the opposite phase of the dipole develops. Propagation of the QBZD convective envelope and of the associated 200 high-level velocity potential anomalies is detected from the eastern Pacific to the Indian Ocean. When the effect of the Kelvin wave propagation is removed by filtering, the stationary character of the QBZD is highlighted. The impact of the QBZD in combination with a Kelvin wave is illustrated by a case study of the monsoon onset in 1984.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Serge Janicot, LOCEAN/IPSL, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Boite 100, 4 Place Jussieu, 75252 Paris CEDEX 05, France. Email: serge.janicot@locean-ipsl.upmc.fr

Abstract

This paper presents an investigation of the mechanisms giving rise to the main intraseasonal mode of convection in the African monsoon during northern summer, here identified as the quasi-biweekly zonal dipole (QBZD). The QBZD is primarily characterized by a quasi-stationary zonal dipole of convection whose dimension is larger than the West African monsoon domain, with its two poles centered along the Guinean coast and between 30° and 60°W in the equatorial Atlantic. The QBZD dynamical processes within the Atlantic–Africa domain are examined in some detail. The QBZD has a dipole pattern associated with a Walker-type circulation in the near-equatorial zonal plane. It is controlled both by equatorial atmospheric dynamics through a Kelvin wave–like disturbance propagating eastward between its two poles and by land surface processes over Africa, inducing combined fluctuations in surface temperatures, surface pressure, and low-level zonal winds off the coast of West Africa. When convection is at a minimum over central and West Africa, a lack of cloud cover results in higher net shortwave flux at the surface, which increases surface temperatures and lowers surface pressures. This creates an east–west pressure gradient at the latitude of both the ITCZ (10°N) and the Saharan heat low (20°N), leading to an increase in eastward moisture advection inland. The arrival from the Atlantic of the positive pressure signal associated with a Kelvin wave pattern amplifies the low-level westerly wind component and the moisture advection inland, leading to an increase in convective activity over central and West Africa. Then the opposite phase of the dipole develops. Propagation of the QBZD convective envelope and of the associated 200 high-level velocity potential anomalies is detected from the eastern Pacific to the Indian Ocean. When the effect of the Kelvin wave propagation is removed by filtering, the stationary character of the QBZD is highlighted. The impact of the QBZD in combination with a Kelvin wave is illustrated by a case study of the monsoon onset in 1984.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Serge Janicot, LOCEAN/IPSL, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Boite 100, 4 Place Jussieu, 75252 Paris CEDEX 05, France. Email: serge.janicot@locean-ipsl.upmc.fr

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