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On the Epochal Strengthening in the Relationship between Rainfall of East Africa and IOD

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  • 1 Department of Geography, Bindura University of Science Education, Bindura, Zimbabwe, and Department of Ocean Technology, Policy, and Environment, University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan, and International Centre for Theoretical Physics, Trieste, Italy, and Research Institute for Global Change, JAMSTEC, Yokohama, Japan
  • 2 Department of Ocean Technology, Policy, and Environment, University of Tokyo, Tokyo, and Research Institute for Global Change, JAMSTEC, Yokohama, Japan
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Abstract

Variability of the equatorial East Africa “short rains” (EASR) has intensified significantly since the turn of the twentieth century. This increase toward more extreme rainfall events has not been gradual but is strongly characterized by epochs. The rain gauge–based Global Precipitation Climatology Centre (GPCC) monthly precipitation dataset for the period 1901–2009 is used to demonstrate that the epochal changes were dictated by shifts in the Indian Ocean dipole (IOD) mode. These shifts occurred during 1961 and 1997. In the pre-1961 period, there was virtually no significant linear link between the IOD and the EASR. But a relatively strong coupling between the two occurred abruptly in 1961 and was generally maintained at that level until 1997, when another sudden shift to even a greater level occurred. The first principal component (PC1) extracted from the EASR spatial domain initially merely explained about 50% of the rainfall variability before 1961, and then catapulted to about 73% for the period from 1961 to 1997, before eventually shifting to exceed 82% after 1997. The PC1 for each successive epoch also displayed loadings with notably improved spatial coherence. This systematic pattern of increase was accompanied by both a sharp increase in the frequency of rainfall extremes and spatial coherence of the rainfall events over the region. Therefore, it is most likely that the 1961 and 1997 IOD shifts are responsible for the epochal modulation of the EASR in both the spatial and temporal domain.

Corresponding author address: Desmond Manatsa, Department of Geography, Bindura University of Science Education, Private Bag 1020, Bindura, Zimbabwe. E-mail: dmanatsa@gmail.com

Abstract

Variability of the equatorial East Africa “short rains” (EASR) has intensified significantly since the turn of the twentieth century. This increase toward more extreme rainfall events has not been gradual but is strongly characterized by epochs. The rain gauge–based Global Precipitation Climatology Centre (GPCC) monthly precipitation dataset for the period 1901–2009 is used to demonstrate that the epochal changes were dictated by shifts in the Indian Ocean dipole (IOD) mode. These shifts occurred during 1961 and 1997. In the pre-1961 period, there was virtually no significant linear link between the IOD and the EASR. But a relatively strong coupling between the two occurred abruptly in 1961 and was generally maintained at that level until 1997, when another sudden shift to even a greater level occurred. The first principal component (PC1) extracted from the EASR spatial domain initially merely explained about 50% of the rainfall variability before 1961, and then catapulted to about 73% for the period from 1961 to 1997, before eventually shifting to exceed 82% after 1997. The PC1 for each successive epoch also displayed loadings with notably improved spatial coherence. This systematic pattern of increase was accompanied by both a sharp increase in the frequency of rainfall extremes and spatial coherence of the rainfall events over the region. Therefore, it is most likely that the 1961 and 1997 IOD shifts are responsible for the epochal modulation of the EASR in both the spatial and temporal domain.

Corresponding author address: Desmond Manatsa, Department of Geography, Bindura University of Science Education, Private Bag 1020, Bindura, Zimbabwe. E-mail: dmanatsa@gmail.com
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