Multiyear La Niña Events and Multiseason Drought in the Horn of Africa

Weston Anderson aEarth System Science Interdisciplinary Center, University of Maryland, College Park, College Park, Maryland
bNASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland

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Benjamin I. Cook cNASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York, New York
dLamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Palisades, New York

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Kim Slinski aEarth System Science Interdisciplinary Center, University of Maryland, College Park, College Park, Maryland
bNASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland

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Kevin Schwarzwald eInternational Research Institute for Climate and Society, Palisades, New York

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Amy McNally bNASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland
fU.S. Agency for International Development, Washington, D.C.

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Chris Funk gClimate Hazards Center, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, California

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Abstract

One of the primary sources of predictability for seasonal hydroclimate forecasts are sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the tropical Pacific, including El Niño–Southern Oscillation. Multiyear La Niña events in particular may be both predictable at long lead times and favor drought in the bimodal rainfall regions of East Africa. However, SST patterns in the tropical Pacific and adjacent ocean basins often differ substantially between first- and second-year La Niñas, which can change how these events affect regional climate. Here, we demonstrate that multiyear La Niña events favor drought in the Horn of Africa in three consecutive seasons [October–December (OND), March–May (MAM), OND]. But they do not tend to increase the probability of a fourth season of drought owing to the sea surface temperatures and associated atmospheric teleconnections in the MAM long rains season following second-year La Niña events. First-year La Niñas tend to have both greater subsidence over the Horn of Africa, associated with warmer waters in the west Pacific that enhance the Walker circulation, and greater cross-continental moisture transport, associated with a warm tropical Atlantic, as compared to second-year La Niñas. Both the increased subsidence and enhanced cross-continental moisture transport favors drought in the Horn of Africa. Our results provide a physical understanding of the sources and limitations of predictability for using multiyear La Niña forecasts to predict drought in the Horn of Africa.

© 2023 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Weston Anderson, weston.anderson@nasa.gov

Abstract

One of the primary sources of predictability for seasonal hydroclimate forecasts are sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the tropical Pacific, including El Niño–Southern Oscillation. Multiyear La Niña events in particular may be both predictable at long lead times and favor drought in the bimodal rainfall regions of East Africa. However, SST patterns in the tropical Pacific and adjacent ocean basins often differ substantially between first- and second-year La Niñas, which can change how these events affect regional climate. Here, we demonstrate that multiyear La Niña events favor drought in the Horn of Africa in three consecutive seasons [October–December (OND), March–May (MAM), OND]. But they do not tend to increase the probability of a fourth season of drought owing to the sea surface temperatures and associated atmospheric teleconnections in the MAM long rains season following second-year La Niña events. First-year La Niñas tend to have both greater subsidence over the Horn of Africa, associated with warmer waters in the west Pacific that enhance the Walker circulation, and greater cross-continental moisture transport, associated with a warm tropical Atlantic, as compared to second-year La Niñas. Both the increased subsidence and enhanced cross-continental moisture transport favors drought in the Horn of Africa. Our results provide a physical understanding of the sources and limitations of predictability for using multiyear La Niña forecasts to predict drought in the Horn of Africa.

© 2023 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Weston Anderson, weston.anderson@nasa.gov

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