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Interannual and Interdecadal Variability of the South Atlantic Convergence Zone

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  • 1 Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California
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Abstract

Interannual variations of the summertime (January–March) atmospheric circulation over subtropical South America are examined during the period 1958–97 using the National Centers for Environmental Prediction–National Center for Atmospheric Research reanalysis data. It is found from an empirical orthogonal function analysis that an anomalous upper-tropospheric large-scale stationary eddy in the lee of the Andes tends to accompany a dipole in anomalous vertical motion. An anomalous cyclonic (anticyclonic) eddy accompanies an intensified (diffuse) South Atlantic convergence zone (SACZ), with anomalous descent (ascent) to the southwest. The cold-core equivalent barotropic vertical structure of the anomalous cyclonic eddy and the 200-hPa vorticity balance are both characteristic of a stationary Rossby wave; the tendency for the eddy to be advected downstream by the mean westerlies is compensated by meridional advection of planetary vorticity and stretching associated with vertical motion. The anomalous cyclonic flow at low levels reinforces the thermally direct circulation associated with the SACZ. A weak funneling of submonthly Rossby wave activity into this descent region is also identified.

The interannual time series of the eddy is significantly correlated with north–south dipolar sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies over the southwest Atlantic; one standard deviation 200-hPa wind speed anomalies of up to 5 m s−1 are accompanied by SST anomalies of up to 0.3°C. A near-cyclic 15-yr component is identified, which the authors corroborate from independent analyses of southwest Atlantic SSTs and river flows; both are found to exhibit very similar oscillatory components. When the SACZ is intensified, the Paraná and Paraguay rivers in southern Brazil tend to swell, while the Uruguay and Negro rivers to the south tend to ebb; this north–south contrast in streamflow anomalies is most marked on the interdecadal timescale.

+ Additional affiliation: Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Andrew W. Robertson, Department of Atmospheric Sciences, UCLA, 405 Hilgard Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1565.

Email: andy@atmos.ucla.edu

Abstract

Interannual variations of the summertime (January–March) atmospheric circulation over subtropical South America are examined during the period 1958–97 using the National Centers for Environmental Prediction–National Center for Atmospheric Research reanalysis data. It is found from an empirical orthogonal function analysis that an anomalous upper-tropospheric large-scale stationary eddy in the lee of the Andes tends to accompany a dipole in anomalous vertical motion. An anomalous cyclonic (anticyclonic) eddy accompanies an intensified (diffuse) South Atlantic convergence zone (SACZ), with anomalous descent (ascent) to the southwest. The cold-core equivalent barotropic vertical structure of the anomalous cyclonic eddy and the 200-hPa vorticity balance are both characteristic of a stationary Rossby wave; the tendency for the eddy to be advected downstream by the mean westerlies is compensated by meridional advection of planetary vorticity and stretching associated with vertical motion. The anomalous cyclonic flow at low levels reinforces the thermally direct circulation associated with the SACZ. A weak funneling of submonthly Rossby wave activity into this descent region is also identified.

The interannual time series of the eddy is significantly correlated with north–south dipolar sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies over the southwest Atlantic; one standard deviation 200-hPa wind speed anomalies of up to 5 m s−1 are accompanied by SST anomalies of up to 0.3°C. A near-cyclic 15-yr component is identified, which the authors corroborate from independent analyses of southwest Atlantic SSTs and river flows; both are found to exhibit very similar oscillatory components. When the SACZ is intensified, the Paraná and Paraguay rivers in southern Brazil tend to swell, while the Uruguay and Negro rivers to the south tend to ebb; this north–south contrast in streamflow anomalies is most marked on the interdecadal timescale.

+ Additional affiliation: Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Andrew W. Robertson, Department of Atmospheric Sciences, UCLA, 405 Hilgard Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1565.

Email: andy@atmos.ucla.edu

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