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Ernesto H. Berbery and Mario N. Núñez


European Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecasts analyses during June 1985 are used to characterize the flow in the South America sector during a typical blocking episode. Numerical experiments are performed using a hemispheric shallow-water model to test whether such blocking episodes can be a result of local resonance between forced Rossby waves generated by the Andes Mountains and by an upstream forcing.

It appears that while blocks generated in the Atlantic Ocean may respond to this mechanism from the beginning, the more frequency ones that develop from a ridge that advances from the Pacific Ocean may also benefit from it in the intensification and maintenance stages.

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Kingtse C. Mo and Ernesto H. Berbery


This study employs observations and the model simulations from the U.S. Climate Variability and Predictability (CLIVAR) Drought Working Group to examine extreme precipitation events like drought and wet spells that persist more than one season over South America. These events tend to persist over northeastern Brazil, the Guianas, and the west coast of Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. They are least likely to persist over southeastern South America, which includes Uruguay, southern Brazil, and northeastern Argentina.

The U.S. CLIVAR simulations, particularly those of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Community Atmosphere Model, version 3.5 (CAM3.5), capture satisfactorily the impact of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the north tropical Atlantic (NTA) sea surface temperature anomaly (SSTA) signals on persistent extreme events and reproduce the mechanisms inducing the teleconnection patterns. The cold (warm) ENSO favors wetness (dryness) over Venezuela, Colombia, and northeastern Brazil and dryness (wet spells) over southeastern South America and southern Argentina. The NTA SSTAs alone tend to have a more local impact affecting mostly over northern South America in March–May.

The simulations show that when the two modes (ENSO and NTA) act in concert, the effects may become noticeable in different and remote areas of the continent, as they shift the probability of drought and persistent wet spells over different regions of South America. The impact is strong when the ENSO and the NTA are in opposite phases. For the cold (warm) Pacific and warm (cold) Atlantic, droughts (persistent wet spells) are intensified over southeastern South America, while persistent wet spells (droughts) are favored over the northern part of the continent. The changes in the patterns are regional and not as intense when both oceans are warm (or cold).

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Mathew Barlow, Sumant Nigam, and Ernesto H. Berbery


A dynamically oriented description of the North American summer monsoon system, which encompasses the Mexican monsoon and the associated large-scale circulation over the continental United States, is provided by developing an evolution climatology of the precipitation, tropospheric circulation, moisture fluxes, diabatic heating, convective environment, and the adjoining basin SSTs.

A distinguishing aspect of this study is the amount of independent data analyzed, such as the newly available European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) reanalyses, the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) reanalyses, both satellite-derived and station data–based precipitation estimates, and the heating diagnosed from both reanalyses. This also provides a preliminary evaluation and comparison of the newly available NCEP and ECMWF reanalyses at the regional level, including the model-generated precipitation and heating distributions. The principal findings are the following.

  • The accompaniment of the Mexican monsoon onset by decreased precipitation to the east is shown to be a robust climatological feature. This striking linkage is also evident in the associated tropospheric circulation and, notably, in the upper-level heating fields. The climatological phasing of the precipitation between the two areas is coherent even at the pentad timescale.
  • While the Mexican monsoon onset is closely associated with thermodynamic favorability, the linkage to the central United States, as reflected in the vertical velocity and the low-level height fields, appears to be consistent with several possible forcings: the monsoon deep heating, the elevated heating of the North American cordillera and plateau, and orographic forcing associated with the seasonal movement of the easterlies encroaching on the North American cordillera.
  • Although both reanalyses yield a tropical-type deep tropospheric heating distribution in the Mexican monsoon region and, therefore, a potentially prominent role for the monsoon in the regional circulation, the considerable differences in the diagnosed heating vertical structure, thermodynamic balance, and the overall heating magnitude between the two reanalyses, and even between the NCEP reanalysis-consistent heating and the NCEP model-produced heating, suggest potentially significant differences in the implied dynamics of the North American monsoon system.

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Estela A. Collini, Ernesto H. Berbery, Vicente R. Barros, and Matthew E. Pyle


This article discusses the feedbacks between soil moisture and precipitation during the early stages of the South American monsoon. The system achieves maximum precipitation over the southern Amazon basin and the Brazilian highlands during the austral summer. Monsoon changes are associated with the large-scale dynamics, but during its early stages, when the surface is not sufficiently wet, soil moisture anomalies may also modulate the development of precipitation. To investigate this, sensitivity experiments to initial soil moisture conditions were performed using month-long simulations with the regional mesoscale Eta model. Examination of the control simulations shows that they reproduce all major features and magnitudes of the South American circulation and precipitation patterns, particularly those of the monsoon. The surface sensible and latent heat fluxes, as well as precipitation, have a diurnal cycle whose phase is consistent with previous observational studies. The convective inhibition is smallest at the time of the precipitation maximum, but the convective available potential energy exhibits an unrealistic morning maximum that may result from an early boundary layer mixing.

The sensitivity experiments show that precipitation is more responsive to reductions of soil moisture than to increases, suggesting that although the soil is not too wet, it is sufficiently humid to easily reach levels where soil moisture anomalies stop being effective in altering the evapotranspiration and other surface and boundary layer variables. Two mechanisms by which soil moisture has a positive feedback with precipitation are discussed. First, the reduction of initial soil moisture leads to a smaller latent heat flux and a larger sensible heat flux, and both contribute to a larger Bowen ratio. The smaller evapotranspiration and increased sensible heat flux lead to a drier and warmer boundary layer, which in turn reduces the atmospheric instability. Second, the deeper (and drier) boundary layer is related to a stronger and higher South American low-level jet (SALLJ). However, because of the lesser moisture content, the SALLJ carries less moisture to the monsoon region, as evidenced by the reduced moisture fluxes and their convergence. The two mechanisms—reduced convective instability and reduced moisture flux convergence—act concurrently to diminish the core monsoon precipitation.

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Siegfried D. Schubert, Ronald E. Stewart, Hailan Wang, Mathew Barlow, Ernesto H. Berbery, Wenju Cai, Martin P. Hoerling, Krishna K. Kanikicharla, Randal D. Koster, Bradfield Lyon, Annarita Mariotti, Carlos R. Mechoso, Omar V. Müller, Belen Rodriguez-Fonseca, Richard Seager, Sonia I. Seneviratne, Lixia Zhang, and Tianjun Zhou


Drought affects virtually every region of the world, and potential shifts in its character in a changing climate are a major concern. This article presents a synthesis of current understanding of meteorological drought, with a focus on the large-scale controls on precipitation afforded by sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies, land surface feedbacks, and radiative forcings. The synthesis is primarily based on regionally focused articles submitted to the Global Drought Information System (GDIS) collection together with new results from a suite of atmospheric general circulation model experiments intended to integrate those studies into a coherent view of drought worldwide. On interannual time scales, the preeminence of ENSO as a driver of meteorological drought throughout much of the Americas, eastern Asia, Australia, and the Maritime Continent is now well established, whereas in other regions (e.g., Europe, Africa, and India), the response to ENSO is more ephemeral or nonexistent. Northern Eurasia, central Europe, and central and eastern Canada stand out as regions with few SST-forced impacts on precipitation on interannual time scales. Decadal changes in SST appear to be a major factor in the occurrence of long-term drought, as highlighted by apparent impacts on precipitation of the late 1990s “climate shifts” in the Pacific and Atlantic SST. Key remaining research challenges include (i) better quantification of unforced and forced atmospheric variability as well as land–atmosphere feedbacks, (ii) better understanding of the physical basis for the leading modes of climate variability and their predictability, and (iii) quantification of the relative contributions of internal decadal SST variability and forced climate change to long-term drought.

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