Drought and Persistent Wet Spells over South America Based on Observations and the U.S. CLIVAR Drought Experiments

Kingtse C. Mo NOAA/NWS/NCEP/Climate Prediction Center, Camp Springs, Maryland

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Ernesto H. Berbery Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science/ESSIC, University of Maryland, College Park, College Park, Maryland

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Abstract

This study employs observations and the model simulations from the U.S. Climate Variability and Predictability (CLIVAR) Drought Working Group to examine extreme precipitation events like drought and wet spells that persist more than one season over South America. These events tend to persist over northeastern Brazil, the Guianas, and the west coast of Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. They are least likely to persist over southeastern South America, which includes Uruguay, southern Brazil, and northeastern Argentina.

The U.S. CLIVAR simulations, particularly those of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Community Atmosphere Model, version 3.5 (CAM3.5), capture satisfactorily the impact of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the north tropical Atlantic (NTA) sea surface temperature anomaly (SSTA) signals on persistent extreme events and reproduce the mechanisms inducing the teleconnection patterns. The cold (warm) ENSO favors wetness (dryness) over Venezuela, Colombia, and northeastern Brazil and dryness (wet spells) over southeastern South America and southern Argentina. The NTA SSTAs alone tend to have a more local impact affecting mostly over northern South America in March–May.

The simulations show that when the two modes (ENSO and NTA) act in concert, the effects may become noticeable in different and remote areas of the continent, as they shift the probability of drought and persistent wet spells over different regions of South America. The impact is strong when the ENSO and the NTA are in opposite phases. For the cold (warm) Pacific and warm (cold) Atlantic, droughts (persistent wet spells) are intensified over southeastern South America, while persistent wet spells (droughts) are favored over the northern part of the continent. The changes in the patterns are regional and not as intense when both oceans are warm (or cold).

Corresponding author address: Kingtse C. Mo, NOAA/NWS/NCEP/Climate Prediction Center, 5200 Auth Rd., Camp Springs, MD 20746. Email: kingtse.mo@noaa.gov

Abstract

This study employs observations and the model simulations from the U.S. Climate Variability and Predictability (CLIVAR) Drought Working Group to examine extreme precipitation events like drought and wet spells that persist more than one season over South America. These events tend to persist over northeastern Brazil, the Guianas, and the west coast of Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. They are least likely to persist over southeastern South America, which includes Uruguay, southern Brazil, and northeastern Argentina.

The U.S. CLIVAR simulations, particularly those of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Community Atmosphere Model, version 3.5 (CAM3.5), capture satisfactorily the impact of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the north tropical Atlantic (NTA) sea surface temperature anomaly (SSTA) signals on persistent extreme events and reproduce the mechanisms inducing the teleconnection patterns. The cold (warm) ENSO favors wetness (dryness) over Venezuela, Colombia, and northeastern Brazil and dryness (wet spells) over southeastern South America and southern Argentina. The NTA SSTAs alone tend to have a more local impact affecting mostly over northern South America in March–May.

The simulations show that when the two modes (ENSO and NTA) act in concert, the effects may become noticeable in different and remote areas of the continent, as they shift the probability of drought and persistent wet spells over different regions of South America. The impact is strong when the ENSO and the NTA are in opposite phases. For the cold (warm) Pacific and warm (cold) Atlantic, droughts (persistent wet spells) are intensified over southeastern South America, while persistent wet spells (droughts) are favored over the northern part of the continent. The changes in the patterns are regional and not as intense when both oceans are warm (or cold).

Corresponding author address: Kingtse C. Mo, NOAA/NWS/NCEP/Climate Prediction Center, 5200 Auth Rd., Camp Springs, MD 20746. Email: kingtse.mo@noaa.gov

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