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Anna Agustí-Panareda, Anton Beljaars, Carla Cardinali, Iliana Genkova, and Chris Thorncroft


The field experiment of the African Monsoon Multidisciplinary Analysis (AMMA) project during the 2006 wet monsoon season provided an unprecedented amount of radiosonde/dropsonde data over the West African region. This paper explores the usage and impacts of this invaluable dataset in the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts analyses and forecasts. These soundings are the only source of data that can provide 3D information on the thermodynamic and dynamic structures of the lower troposphere over continental West Africa. They are particularly important for the Sahel region located between 12° and 20°N, which is characterized by large gradients in temperature and moisture in the lower troposphere. An assimilation experiment comparison between the pre-AMMA and AMMA radiosonde networks shows that the extra AMMA soundings have a significant analysis impact on the low-level temperature over the Sahel and on the structure of the African easterly jet. However, the impacts of the extra AMMA data on the forecast disappear after 24 h. The soundings reveal large model biases in boundary layer temperature over the northern and eastern Sahel, which are consistent with the well-known model biases in cloud, rainfall, and radiation. Large analysis increments in temperature lead to increments in divergence and subsidence, which act to suppress convection. Thus, the analysis increments appear to have an undesirable feedback on the cloud and temperature model biases. The impact of the AMMA soundings on the African easterly jet is to enhance and extend the jet streak to 15°E, that is, toward the eastern part of the Sahel. No observations are assimilated east of 15°E at the level of the African easterly jet to support the jet enhancement farther east. Comparisons with independent atmospheric cloud motion vectors indicate that the African easterly jet in the analysis is too weak over this data-sparse region. This could have implications for the development of African easterly waves in the model forecast. Further experimentation by assimilating atmospheric motion vectors—currently not used—could address this problem.

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