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Víctor C. Mayta
and
Ángel F. Adames Corraliza

Abstract

Observations of column water vapor in the tropics show significant variations in space and time, indicating that it is strongly influenced by the passage of weather systems. It is hypothesized that many of the influencing systems are moisture modes, systems whose thermodynamics are governed by moisture. On the basis of four objective criteria, results suggest that all oceanic convectively coupled tropical depression (TD)-like waves and equatorial Rossby waves are moisture modes. These modes occur where the horizontal column moisture gradient is steep and not where the column water vapor content is high. Despite geographical basic-state differences, the moisture modes are driven by the same mechanisms across all basins. The moist static energy (MSE) anomalies propagate westward by horizontal moisture advection by the trade winds. Their growth is determined by the advection of background moisture by the anomalous meridional winds and anomalous radiative heating. Horizontal maps of column moisture and 850-hPa streamfunction show that convection is partially collocated with the low-level circulation in nearly all the waves. Both this structure and the process of growth indicate that the moisture modes grow from moisture–vortex instability. Last, space–time spectral analysis reveals that column moisture and low-level meridional winds are coherent and exhibit a phasing that is consistent with a poleward latent energy transport. Collectively, these results indicate that moisture modes are ubiquitous across the tropics. That they occur in regions of steep horizontal moisture gradients and grow from moisture–vortex instability suggests that these gradients are inherently unstable and are subject to continuous stirring.

Significance Statement

Over the tropics, column water vapor has been found to be highly correlated with precipitation, especially in slowly evolving systems. These observations and theory support the hypothesis that moisture modes exist, a type of precipitating weather system that does not exist in dry theory. In this study, we found that all oceanic tropical depression (TD)-like waves and equatorial Rossby waves are moisture modes. These systems exist in regions where moisture varies greatly in space, and they grow by transporting air from the humid areas of the tropics toward their low pressure center. These results indicate that the climatological-mean distribution of moisture in the tropics is unstable and is subject to stirring by moisture modes.

Open access
Víctor C. Mayta
and
Ángel F. Adames

Abstract

Convectively coupled waves (CCWs) over the Western Hemisphere are classified based on their governing thermodynamics. It is found that only the tropical depressions (TDs; TD waves) satisfy the criteria necessary to be considered a moisture mode, as in the Rossby-like wave found in an earlier study. In this wave, water vapor fluctuations play a much greater role in the thermodynamics than temperature fluctuations. Only in the eastward-propagating inertio-gravity (EIG) wave does temperature govern the thermodynamics. Temperature and moisture play comparable roles in all the other waves, including the Madden–Julian oscillation over the Western Hemisphere (MJO-W). The moist static energy (MSE) budget of CCWs is investigated by analyzing ERA5 data and data from the 2014/15 observations and modeling of the Green Ocean Amazon (GoAmazon 2014/15) field campaign. Results reveal that vertical advection of MSE acts as a primary driver of the propagation of column MSE in westward inertio-gravity (WIG) wave, Kelvin wave, and MJO-W, while horizontal advection plays a central role in the mixed Rossby gravity (MRG) and TD wave. Results also suggest that cloud radiative heating and the horizontal MSE advection govern the maintenance of most of the CCWs. Major disagreements are found between ERA5 and GoAmazon. In GoAmazon, convection is more tightly coupled to variations in column MSE, and vertical MSE advection plays a more prominent role in the MSE tendency. These results along with substantial budget residuals found in ERA5 data suggest that CCWs over the tropical Western Hemisphere are not represented adequately in the reanalysis.

Significance Statement

In comparison to other regions of the globe, the weather systems that affect precipitation in the tropical Western Hemisphere have received little attention. In this study, we investigate the structure, propagation, and thermodynamics of convectively coupled waves that impact precipitation in this region. We found that slowly evolving tropical systems are “moisture modes,” i.e., moving regions of high humidity and precipitation that are maintained by interactions between clouds and radiation. The faster waves are systems that exhibit relatively larger fluctuations in temperature. Vertical motions are more important for the movement of rainfall in these waves. Last, we found that reanalysis and observations disagree over the importance of different processes in the waves that occurred over the Amazon region, hinting at potential deficiencies on how the reanalysis represents clouds in this region.

Free access
Yuntao Jian
,
Marco Y. T. Leung
,
Wen Zhou
,
Maoqiu Jian
, and
Song Yang

Abstract

In this study, the relationship between ENSO and winter synoptic temperature variability (STV) over the Asian–Pacific–American region is examined in 26 CMIP5/6 model outputs. Compared to observations, most models fail to simulate the correct ENSO–STV relationship in historical simulations. To investigate the possible bias in the ENSO–STV simulations, two possible processes for the connection between ENSO and winter STV are examined in high pattern score (HPS) models and low pattern score (LPS) models, respectively. On the one hand, both HPS and LPS models can overall reproduce a reasonable relationship between STV and the mean-flow conditions supporting extratropical eddy development. On the other hand, only HPS models can well capture the relationship between ENSO and the development of extratropical eddies, while LPS models fail to simulate this feature, indicating that the bias in the simulated ENSO–STV relationship among CMIP5/6 models can be traced back to ENSO simulation. Furthermore, the bias of the ENSO simulation is characterized by an unreasonable SST pattern bias, with an excessive westward extension of warm SST anomalies over the western Pacific and weak warm SST anomalies over the equatorial central-eastern Pacific, resulting in the underestimation of the zonal SST anomaly gradient among models. Therefore, the ENSO pattern bias induces an unrealistic circulation and temperature gradient over the Asian–Pacific–American region, affecting the simulations of the ENSO–STV connection. In addition, the ENSO–STV relationship over the Asian–Pacific–American region is still robust in future projections based on HPS models, providing implications for the selection of future climate predictors.

Full access
Andreas Schlueter
,
Andreas H. Fink
, and
Peter Knippertz

Abstract

This study presents the first systematic comparison of the dynamics and thermodynamics associated with all major tropical wave types causing rainfall modulation over northern tropical Africa: the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO), equatorial Rossby waves (ERs), tropical disturbances (TDs, including African easterly waves), Kelvin waves, mixed Rossby–gravity waves (MRGs), and eastward inertio-gravity waves (EIGs). Reanalysis and radiosonde data were analyzed for the period 1981–2013 based on space–time filtering of outgoing longwave radiation. The identified circulation patterns are largely consistent with theory. The slow modes, MJO and ER, mainly impact precipitable water, whereas the faster TDs, Kelvin waves, and MRGs primarily modulate moisture convergence. Monsoonal inflow intensifies during wet phases of the MJO, ERs, and MRGs, associated with a northward shift of the intertropical discontinuity for MJO and ERs. This study reveals that MRGs over Africa have a distinct dynamical structure that differs significantly from AEWs. During passages of vertically tilted imbalanced wave modes, such as the MJO, TDs, Kelvin waves, and partly MRG waves, increased vertical wind shear and improved conditions for up- and downdrafts facilitate the organization of mesoscale convective systems. The balanced ERs are not tilted, and rainfall is triggered by large-scale moistening and stratiform lifting. The MJO and ERs interact with intraseasonal variations of the Indian monsoon and extratropical Rossby wave trains. The latter causes a trough over the Atlas Mountains associated with a tropical plume and rainfall over the Sahara. The presented results unveil which dynamical processes need to be modeled realistically to represent the coupling between tropical waves and rainfall in northern tropical Africa.

Open access
Andreas Schlueter
,
Andreas H. Fink
,
Peter Knippertz
, and
Peter Vogel

Abstract

Low-latitude rainfall variability on the daily to intraseasonal time scale is often related to tropical waves, including convectively coupled equatorial waves, the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO), and tropical disturbances (TDs). Despite the importance of rainfall variability for vulnerable societies in tropical Africa, the relative influence of tropical waves for this region is largely unknown. This article presents the first systematic comparison of the impact of six wave types on precipitation over northern tropical Africa during the transition and full monsoon seasons, using two satellite products and a dense rain gauge network. Composites of rainfall anomalies in the different datasets show comparable modulation intensities in the West Sahel and at the Guinea Coast, varying from less than 2 to above 7 mm day−1 depending on the wave type. African easterly waves (AEWs) and Kelvin waves dominate the 3-hourly to daily time scale and explain 10%–30% locally. On longer time scales (7–20 days), only the MJO and equatorial Rossby (ER) waves remain as modulating factors and explain about up to one-third of rainfall variability. Eastward inertio-gravity waves and mixed Rossby–gravity (MRG) waves are comparatively unimportant. An analysis of wave superposition shows that low-frequency waves (MJO, ER) in their wet phase amplify the activity of high-frequency waves (TD, MRG) and suppress them in the dry phase. The results stress that more attention should be paid to tropical waves when forecasting rainfall over northern tropical Africa.

Open access