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Bing Pu, Edward K. Vizy, and Kerry H. Cook

Abstract

Paleo-proxy and modeling evidence suggest that a shutdown of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) would decrease North Atlantic Ocean sea surface temperatures and have far-reaching climate impacts. The authors use a regional climate model to examine the warm season response over North America to a hypothetical late-twenty-first-century shutdown of the AMOC with increased atmospheric CO2. In the future simulation, precipitation decreases over the western and central United States by up to 40% and over eastern Mexico by up to 50%. Over the eastern United States rainfall generally increases except during July. Variations in the moisture convergence associated with large-scale circulation changes dominate the rainfall variations, while evaporation plays a critical role over the northeastern United States in spring and the north-central United States in summer. During April–June the westward extension of the North Atlantic subtropical high enhances southwesterly moisture fluxes from the Gulf of Mexico into the eastern and south-central United States. Increases in low-level moisture content reduce the stability of the atmosphere. Enhanced southerly winds promote convergence over the eastern United States through the Sverdrup vorticity balance and precipitation increases. In July–August anomalous anticyclonic moisture fluxes associated with an anomalous high over the Gulf of Mexico and eastern Pacific decrease the moisture supply into the United States and Mexico. Over the central United States decreases in evaporation support decreases in low-level moisture content and increases in atmospheric stability. Over the eastern United States the Sverdrup balance weakens in summer and anomalous moisture convergence is mainly located over the East Coast.

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Gang Zhang, Kerry H. Cook, and Edward K. Vizy

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Convection-permitting simulations at 3-km resolution using a regional climate model are analyzed to improve the understanding of the diurnal cycle of rainfall over West Africa and its underlying physical processes. The warm season of 2006 is used for the model simulations. The model produces an accurate representation of the observed seasonal mean rainfall and lower-troposphere circulation and captures the observed westward propagation of rainfall systems. Most of West Africa has a single diurnal peak of rainfall in the simulations, either in the afternoon or at night, in agreement with observations. However, the number of simulated rainfall systems is greater than observed in association with an overestimation of the initiation of afternoon rainfall over topography. The longevity of the simulated propagating systems is about 30% shorter than is observed, and their propagation speed is nearly 20% faster. The model captures the observed afternoon rainfall peaks associated with elevated topography (e.g., the Jos Plateau). Nocturnal rainfall peaks downstream of the topographic afternoon rainfall are also well simulated. However, these nocturnal rainfall peaks are too widespread, and the model fails to reproduce the observed afternoon rainfall peaks over regions removed from topographic influence. This deficiency is related to a planetary boundary layer that is deeper than observed, elevating unstable profiles and inhibiting afternoon convection. This study concludes that increasing model resolution to convection-permitting space scales significantly improves the diurnal cycle of rainfall compared with the models that parameterize convection, but this is not sufficient to fully resolve the issue, perhaps because other parameterizations remain.

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Gang Zhang, Kerry H. Cook, and Edward K. Vizy

Abstract

This study provides an improved understanding of the diurnal cycle of warm season (June–September) rainfall over West Africa, including its underlying physical processes. Rainfall from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission and atmospheric dynamics fields from reanalyses are used to evaluate the 1998–2013 climatology and a case study for 2006.

In both the climatology and the 2006 case study, most regions of West Africa are shown to have a single diurnal peak of rainfall either in the afternoon or at night. Averaging over West Africa produces a diurnal cycle with two peaks, but this type of diurnal cycle is quite atypical on smaller space scales. Rainfall systems are usually generated in the afternoon and propagate westward, lasting into the night. Afternoon rainfall peaks are associated with an unstable lower troposphere. They occur either over topography or in regions undisturbed by nocturnal systems, allowing locally generated instability to dominate. Nocturnal rainfall peaks are associated with the westward propagation of rainfall systems and not generally with local instability. Nocturnal rainfall peaks occur most frequently about 3°–10° of longitude downstream of regions with afternoon rainfall peaks. The diurnal cycle of rainfall is closely associated with the timing of extreme rainfall events.

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Xiaoming Sun, Kerry H. Cook, and Edward K. Vizy

Abstract

ERA-Interim and JRA-55 reanalysis products are analyzed to document the annual cycle of the South Atlantic subtropical high (SASH) and examine how its interannual variability relates to regional and large-scale climate variability. The annual cycle of the SASH is found to have two peaks in both intensity and size. The SASH is strongest and largest during the solstitial months when its center is either closest to the equator and on the western side of the South Atlantic basin during austral winter or farthest poleward and in the center of the basin in late austral summer. Although interannual variations in the SASH’s position are larger in the zonal direction, the intensity of the high decreases when it is positioned to the north. This relationship is statistically significant in every month. Seasonal composites and EOF analysis indicate that meridional changes in the position of the SASH dominate interannual variations in austral summer. In particular, the anticyclone tends to be displaced poleward in La Niña years when the southern annular mode (SAM) is in its positive phase and vice versa. Wave activity flux vectors suggest that ENSO-related convective anomalies located in the central-eastern tropical Pacific act as a remote forcing for the meridional variability of the summertime SASH. In southern winter, multiple processes operate in concert to induce interannual variability, and none of them appears to dominate like ENSO does during the summer.

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Kerry H. Cook, Edward K. Vizy, Zachary S. Launer, and Christina M. Patricola

Abstract

Simulations from 18 coupled atmosphere–ocean GCMs are analyzed to predict changes in the climatological Great Plains low-level jet (GPLLJ) and Midwest U.S. hydrology resulting from greenhouse gas increases during the twenty-first century. To build confidence in the prediction, models are selected for analysis based on their twentieth-century simulations, and their simulations of the future are diagnosed to ensure that the response is reasonable. Confidence in the model projections is also bolstered by agreement among models, in a so-called multimodel ensemble, and by analogy with present-day interannual variability.

The GCMs agree that the GPLLJ will be more intense in April, May, and June in the future. The selected models even agree on the reason for this intensification, namely, a westward extension and strengthening of the North Atlantic subtropical high (the Bermuda high) that occurs when greenhouse gas–induced warming over the continental United States exceeds that of the subtropical Atlantic in the spring. Accompanying the changes in the GPLLJ are springtime precipitation increases of 20%–40% in the upper Mississippi Valley, which are closely associated with intensified meridional moisture convergence by the jet, with decreases to the south, which results in reduced moist static stability in the region. The simulated differences in the Midwest circulation and hydrology in the spring for the twenty-first century are similar to the observed moisture balance and circulation anomalies for May and, especially, June of 1993, a year of devastating floods throughout the Mississippi Valley.

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Rory G. J. Fitzpatrick, Douglas J. Parker, John H. Marsham, David P. Rowell, Francoise M. Guichard, Chris M. Taylor, Kerry H. Cook, Edward K. Vizy, Lawrence S. Jackson, Declan Finney, Julia Crook, Rachel Stratton, and Simon Tucker

Abstract

Extreme rainfall is expected to increase under climate change, carrying potential socioeconomic risks. However, the magnitude of increase is uncertain. Over recent decades, extreme storms over the West African Sahel have increased in frequency, with increased vertical wind shear shown to be a cause. Drier midlevels, stronger cold pools, and increased storm organization have also been observed. Global models do not capture the potential effects of lower- to midtropospheric wind shear or cold pools on storm organization since they parameterize convection. Here we use the first convection-permitting simulations of African climate change to understand how changes in thermodynamics and storm dynamics affect future extreme Sahelian rainfall. The model, which simulates warming associated with representative concentration pathway 8.5 (RCP8.5) until the end of the twenty-first century, projects a 28% increase of the extreme rain rate of MCSs. The Sahel moisture change on average follows Clausius–Clapeyron scaling, but has regional heterogeneity. Rain rates scale with the product of time-of-storm total column water (TCW) and in-storm vertical velocity. Additionally, prestorm wind shear and convective available potential energy both modulate in-storm vertical velocity. Although wind shear affects cloud-top temperatures within our model, it has no direct correlation with precipitation rates. In our model, projected future increase in TCW is the primary explanation for increased rain rates. Finally, although colder cold pools are modeled in the future climate, we see no significant change in near-surface winds, highlighting avenues for future research on convection-permitting modeling of storm dynamics.

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Belen Rodríguez-Fonseca, Elsa Mohino, Carlos R. Mechoso, Cyril Caminade, Michela Biasutti, Marco Gaetani, J. Garcia-Serrano, Edward K. Vizy, Kerry Cook, Yongkang Xue, Irene Polo, Teresa Losada, Leonard Druyan, Bernard Fontaine, Juergen Bader, Francisco J. Doblas-Reyes, Lisa Goddard, Serge Janicot, Alberto Arribas, William Lau, Andrew Colman, M. Vellinga, David P. Rowell, Fred Kucharski, and Aurore Voldoire

Abstract

The Sahel experienced a severe drought during the 1970s and 1980s after wet periods in the 1950s and 1960s. Although rainfall partially recovered since the 1990s, the drought had devastating impacts on society. Most studies agree that this dry period resulted primarily from remote effects of sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies amplified by local land surface–atmosphere interactions. This paper reviews advances made during the last decade to better understand the impact of global SST variability on West African rainfall at interannual to decadal time scales. At interannual time scales, a warming of the equatorial Atlantic and Pacific/Indian Oceans results in rainfall reduction over the Sahel, and positive SST anomalies over the Mediterranean Sea tend to be associated with increased rainfall. At decadal time scales, warming over the tropics leads to drought over the Sahel, whereas warming over the North Atlantic promotes increased rainfall. Prediction systems have evolved from seasonal to decadal forecasting. The agreement among future projections has improved from CMIP3 to CMIP5, with a general tendency for slightly wetter conditions over the central part of the Sahel, drier conditions over the western part, and a delay in the monsoon onset. The role of the Indian Ocean, the stationarity of teleconnections, the determination of the leader ocean basin in driving decadal variability, the anthropogenic role, the reduction of the model rainfall spread, and the improvement of some model components are among the most important remaining questions that continue to be the focus of current international projects.

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