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Variability of South American Convective Cloud Systems and Tropospheric Circulation during January–March 1998 and 1999

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  • 1 Goddard Earth Sciences and Technology Center, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Baltimore, and NASA GSFC Seasonal to Interannual Prediction Project, Greenbelt, Maryland
  • | 2 Joint Center for Earth Systems Technology, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Baltimore, and NASA GSFC Mesoscale Processes Branch, Greenbelt, Maryland
  • | 3 NASA GSFC Data Assimilation Office, Greenbelt, Maryland
  • | 4 Institute for Computational Earth System Sciences, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, California
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Abstract

A comparison of the submonthly variability of atmospheric circulation and organization of convection in South America during January–February–March of 1998 (JFM98) and January–February–March of 1999 (JFM99) is presented. According to the National Centers for Environmental Prediction reanalysis, the South American low-level jet (SALLJ) was about twice as strong during JFM of the 1998 El Niño episode than during JFM of the 1999 La Niña episode. The difference in SALLJ strength between these two years translated into stronger transport of moist tropical air into the subtropics during JFM98 than during JFM99. An objective tracking technique was used to identify large, long-lived convective cloud systems in infrared imagery. The stronger SALLJ was accompanied by larger and more numerous long-lived convective cloud systems and nearly twice as much rainfall in subtropical South America (parts of southern Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina) during JFM98 than during JFM99.

The difference between JFM98 and JFM99 SALLJ strength in Bolivia is in part explained by submonthly variability associated with the South Atlantic convergence zone (SACZ). Periods when the SACZ is present are marked by southerly or weak northerly winds in Bolivia. The South Atlantic convergence zone was more prominent during JFM99 than during JFM98 contributing to a weaker SALLJ during JFM99. Large, long-lived convective cloud systems in subtropical South America tended to occur during times when the SACZ was absent and the SALLJ was strong over Bolivia. Interannual variability associated with the El Niño–Southern Oscillation also contributed to the observed interannual variability of the SALLJ in Bolivia.

In the tropical portions of South America nearly 6 times more large, long-lived convective cloud systems were observed during JFM99 than during JFM98. This was accompanied by more plentiful precipitation in portions of the Amazon basin and in the Bolivian Altiplano during JFM99 than during JFM98. Interannual variability associated with the El Niño–Southern Oscillation was an important contributor to the observed convective cloud system and precipitation differences in tropical South America.

On leave from Centro de Previsão de Tempo e Estudos Climáticos, Instituto de Pesquisas Espaciais, Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil

On leave from Departamento de Ciências Atmosféricas, Universidade de São Paulo, Sao Paulo, Brazil

Corresponding author address: Rosana Nieto Ferreira, NASA GSFC, Code 913, Greenbelt, MD 20771. Email: ferreira@janus.gsfc.nasa.gov

Abstract

A comparison of the submonthly variability of atmospheric circulation and organization of convection in South America during January–February–March of 1998 (JFM98) and January–February–March of 1999 (JFM99) is presented. According to the National Centers for Environmental Prediction reanalysis, the South American low-level jet (SALLJ) was about twice as strong during JFM of the 1998 El Niño episode than during JFM of the 1999 La Niña episode. The difference in SALLJ strength between these two years translated into stronger transport of moist tropical air into the subtropics during JFM98 than during JFM99. An objective tracking technique was used to identify large, long-lived convective cloud systems in infrared imagery. The stronger SALLJ was accompanied by larger and more numerous long-lived convective cloud systems and nearly twice as much rainfall in subtropical South America (parts of southern Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina) during JFM98 than during JFM99.

The difference between JFM98 and JFM99 SALLJ strength in Bolivia is in part explained by submonthly variability associated with the South Atlantic convergence zone (SACZ). Periods when the SACZ is present are marked by southerly or weak northerly winds in Bolivia. The South Atlantic convergence zone was more prominent during JFM99 than during JFM98 contributing to a weaker SALLJ during JFM99. Large, long-lived convective cloud systems in subtropical South America tended to occur during times when the SACZ was absent and the SALLJ was strong over Bolivia. Interannual variability associated with the El Niño–Southern Oscillation also contributed to the observed interannual variability of the SALLJ in Bolivia.

In the tropical portions of South America nearly 6 times more large, long-lived convective cloud systems were observed during JFM99 than during JFM98. This was accompanied by more plentiful precipitation in portions of the Amazon basin and in the Bolivian Altiplano during JFM99 than during JFM98. Interannual variability associated with the El Niño–Southern Oscillation was an important contributor to the observed convective cloud system and precipitation differences in tropical South America.

On leave from Centro de Previsão de Tempo e Estudos Climáticos, Instituto de Pesquisas Espaciais, Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil

On leave from Departamento de Ciências Atmosféricas, Universidade de São Paulo, Sao Paulo, Brazil

Corresponding author address: Rosana Nieto Ferreira, NASA GSFC, Code 913, Greenbelt, MD 20771. Email: ferreira@janus.gsfc.nasa.gov

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