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Samson M. Hagos
and
Kerry H. Cook

Abstract

Previous studies show that the climatological precipitation over South America, particularly the Nordeste region, is influenced by the presence of the African continent. Here the influence of African topography and surface wetness on the Atlantic marine ITCZ (AMI) and South American precipitation are investigated.

Cross-equatorial flow over the Atlantic Ocean introduced by north–south asymmetry in surface conditions over Africa shifts the AMI in the direction of the flow. African topography, for example, introduces an anomalous high over the southern Atlantic Ocean and a low to the north. This results in a northward migration of the AMI and dry conditions over the Nordeste region.

The implications of this process on variability are then studied by analyzing the response of the AMI to soil moisture anomalies over tropical Africa. Northerly flow induced by equatorially asymmetric perturbations in soil moisture over northern tropical Africa shifts the AMI southward, increasing the climatological precipitation over northeastern South America. Flow associated with an equatorially symmetric perturbation in soil moisture, however, has a very weak cross-equatorial component and very weak influence on the AMI and South American precipitation. The sensitivity of the AMI to soil moisture perturbations over certain regions of Africa can possibly improve the skill of prediction.

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Samson M. Hagos
and
Kerry H. Cook

Abstract

The observed abrupt latitudinal shift of maximum precipitation from the Guinean coast into the Sahel region in June, known as the West African monsoon jump, is studied using a regional climate model. Moisture, momentum, and energy budget analyses are used to better understand the physical processes that lead to the jump. Because of the distribution of albedo and surface moisture, a sensible heating maximum is in place over the Sahel region throughout the spring. In early May, this sensible heating drives a shallow meridional circulation and moisture convergence at the latitude of the sensible heating maximum, and this moisture is transported upward into the lower free troposphere where it diverges. During the second half of May, the supply of moisture from the boundary layer exceeds the divergence, resulting in a net supply of moisture and condensational heating into the lower troposphere. The resulting pressure gradient introduces an inertial instability, which abruptly shifts the midtropospheric meridional wind convergence maximum from the coast into the continental interior at the end of May. This in turn introduces a net total moisture convergence, net upward moisture flux and condensation in the upper troposphere, and an enhancement of precipitation in the continental interior through June. Because of the shift of the meridional convergence into the continent, condensation and precipitation along the coast gradually decline. The West African monsoon jump is an example of multiscale interaction in the climate system, in which an intraseasonal-scale event is triggered by the smooth seasonal evolution of SSTs and the solar forcing in the presence of land–sea contrast.

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Samson Hagos
and
L. Ruby Leung

Abstract

The moist thermodynamic processes that determine the time scale and energy of the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) are investigated using moisture and eddy available potential energy budget analyses on a cloud-resolving simulation. Two MJO episodes observed during the winter of 2007/08 are realistically simulated. During the inactive phase, moisture supplied by meridional moisture convergence and boundary layer diffusion generates shallow and congestus clouds that moisten the lower troposphere while horizontal mixing tends to dry it. As the lower troposphere is moistened, it becomes a source of moisture for the subsequent deep convection during the MJO active phase. As the active phase ends, the lower troposphere dries out primarily by condensation and horizontal divergence that dominates over the moisture supply by vertical transport. In the simulation, the characteristic time scales of convective vertical transport, mixing, and condensation of moisture in the midtroposphere are estimated to be about 2 days, 4 days, and 20 h respectively. The small differences among these time scales result in an effective time scale of MJO moistening of about 25 days, half the period of the simulated MJO. Furthermore, various cloud types have a destabilizing or damping effect on the amplitude of MJO temperature signals, depending on their characteristic latent heating profile and its temporal covariance with the temperature. The results are used to identify possible sources of the difficulties in simulating MJO in low-resolution models that rely on cumulus parameterizations.

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Samson M. Hagos
and
Kerry H. Cook

Abstract

A regional ocean–atmosphere coupled model is developed for climate variability and change studies. The model allows dynamic and thermodynamic interactions between the atmospheric boundary layer and an ocean mixed layer with spatially and seasonally varying depth prescribed from observations. The model reproduces the West African monsoon circulation as well as aspects of observed seasonal SST variations in the tropical Atlantic. The model is used to identify various mechanisms that couple the West African monsoon circulation with eastern Atlantic SSTs. By reducing wind speeds and suppressing evaporation, the northward migration of the ITCZ off the west coast of Africa contributes to the modeled spring SST increases. During this period, the westerly monsoon flow is expanded farther westward and moisture transport on to the continent is enhanced. Near the end of the summer, upwelling associated with this enhanced westerly flow as well as the solar cycle lead to the seasonal cooling of the SSTs. Over the Gulf of Guinea, the acceleration of the southerly West African monsoon surface winds contributes to cooling of the Gulf of Guinea between April and July by increasing the entrainment of cool underlying water and enhancing evaporation.

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Samson Hagos
and
L. Ruby Leung

Abstract

A survey of tropical divergence from three GCMs, three global reanalyses, and four in situ soundings from field campaigns shows the existence of large uncertainties in the ubiquity of shallow divergent circulation as well as the depth and strength of the deep divergent circulation. More specifically, only two out of the three GCMs and three global reanalyses show significant shallow divergent circulation, which is present in all in situ soundings, and of the three GCMs and three global reanalyses, only two global reanalyses have deep divergence profiles that lie within the range of uncertainty of the soundings. The relationships of uncertainties in the shallow and deep divergent circulation to uncertainties in present-day and projected strength of the hydrological cycle from the GCMs are assessed. In the tropics and subtropics, deep divergent circulation is the largest contributor to moisture convergence that balances the net precipitation (precipitation minus evaporation), and intermodel differences in the present-day simulations carry over onto the future projections. In comparison to the soundings and reanalyses, the GCMs are found to have deeper and stronger divergent circulation. While these two characteristics of GCM divergence affect the strength of the hydrological cycle, they tend to compensate for each other so that their combined effect is relatively modest.

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Samson M. Hagos
and
Kerry H. Cook

Abstract

The influences of decadal Indian and Atlantic Ocean SST anomalies on late-twentieth-century Sahel precipitation variability are investigated. The results of this regional modeling study show that the primary causes of the 1980s Sahel drought are divergence and anomalous anticyclonic circulation, which are associated with Indian Ocean warming. The easterly branch of this circulation drives moisture away from the Sahel. By competing for the available moisture, concurrent tropical Atlantic Ocean warming enhanced the areal coverage of the drought. The modeled partial recovery of the precipitation in the 1990s simulations is mainly related to the warming of the northern tropical Atlantic Ocean and an associated cyclonic circulation that supplies the Sahel with moisture. Because of the changes in the scale and distribution of the forcing, the divergence associated with the continued Indian Ocean warming during the 1990s was located over the tropical Atlantic, contributing to the recovery over the Sahel. In general, the influence of SSTs on Sahel precipitation is related to their modulation of the easterly flow and the associated moisture transport. Precipitation anomalies are further enhanced by the circulation patterns associated with local convergence anomalies. These convergence anomalies and circulation patterns are sensitive to the scale and distribution of the SST anomalies and the moisture.

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Samson Hagos
,
L. Ruby Leung
,
Qing Yang
,
Chun Zhao
, and
Jian Lu

Abstract

This study examines the sensitivity of atmospheric river (AR) frequency simulated by a global model with different grid resolutions and dynamical cores. Analysis is performed on aquaplanet simulations using version 4 of the Community Atmosphere Model (CAM4) at 240-, 120-, 60-, and 30-km model resolutions, each with the Model for Prediction Across Scales (MPAS) and High-Order Methods Modeling Environment (HOMME) dynamical cores. The frequency of AR events decreases with model resolution and the HOMME dynamical core produces more AR events than MPAS. Comparing the frequencies determined using absolute and percentile thresholds of large-scale conditions used to define an AR, model sensitivity is found to be related to the overall sensitivity of subtropical westerlies, atmospheric precipitable water content and profile, and to a lesser extent extratropical Rossby wave activity to model resolution and dynamical core. Real-world simulations using MPAS at 120- and 30-km grid resolutions also exhibit a decrease of AR frequency with increasing resolution over the southern east Pacific, but the difference is smaller over the northern east Pacific. This interhemispheric difference is related to the enhancement of convection in the tropics with increased resolution. This anomalous convection sets off Rossby wave patterns that weaken the subtropical westerlies over the southern east Pacific but has relatively little effect on those over the northern east Pacific. In comparison to the NCEP-2 reanalysis, MPAS real-world simulations are found to underestimate AR frequencies at both resolutions likely because of their climatologically drier subtropics and poleward-shifted jets. This study highlights the important links between model climatology of large-scale conditions and extremes.

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Samson Hagos
,
L. Ruby Leung
,
Oluwayemi Garuba
, and
Christina M. Patricola

Abstract

The frequency of North Pacific atmospheric rivers (ARs) affects water supply and flood risk over western North America. Thus, understanding factors that affect the variability of landfalling AR frequency is of scientific and societal importance. This study aims at identifying the sources of the moisture for North Pacific ARs and assessing how different modes of variability modulate these sources. To this end, the sources and variability of the background divergent component of the integrated moisture flux (DIVT) in ARs are identified using MERRA reanalysis. It is shown that in the boreal winter, this background DIVT in ARs is related to the outflow from the subsidence over the subtropics that transports moisture northward, while in summer it is related to the Asian monsoon and it transports moisture northwestward. This leads to a seasonal northwest–southeast movement of the AR frequency climatology. At the intraseasonal scale, propagation of the Madden–Julian oscillation introduces an anticlockwise rotation of the background DIVT, with northward transport in phases 1 and 2, westward in 3 and 4, southward in 5 and 6, and eastward in 7 and 8, making landfall over the west coast of North America most likely during the last two phases. Similarly, El Niño–Southern Oscillation variability also affects the frequency of ARs through modulation of the westerly background DIVT, favoring landfall over the U.S. West Coast during strong El Niño phases. It is shown that in general the likelihood of AR landfall over the western United States is correlated with the zonal background DIVT over northeastern Pacific.

Open access
Yun Qian
,
Huiping Yan
,
Larry K. Berg
,
Samson Hagos
,
Zhe Feng
,
Ben Yang
, and
Maoyi Huang

Abstract

Accuracy of turbulence parameterization in representing planetary boundary layer (PBL) processes and surface–atmosphere interactions in climate models is critical for predicting the initiation and development of clouds. This study 1) evaluates WRF Model–simulated spatial patterns and vertical profiles of atmospheric variables at various spatial resolutions and with different PBL, surface layer, and shallow convection schemes against measurements; 2) identifies model biases by examining the moisture tendency terms contributed by PBL and convection processes through nudging experiments; and 3) investigates the main causes of these biases by analyzing the dependence of modeled surface fluxes on PBL and surface layer schemes over the tropical ocean. The results show that PBL and surface parameterizations have surprisingly large impacts on precipitation and surface moisture fluxes over tropical oceans. All of the parameterizations tested tend to overpredict moisture in the PBL and free atmosphere and consequently result in larger moist static energy and precipitation. Moisture nudging tends to suppress the initiation of convection and reduces the excess precipitation. The reduction in precipitation bias in turn reduces the surface wind and latent heat (LH) flux biases, which suggests the positive feedback between precipitation and surface fluxes is responsible, at least in part, for the model drifts. The updated Kain–Fritsch cumulus potential (KF-CuP) shallow convection scheme tends to suppress the deep convection, consequently decreasing precipitation. The Eta Model surface layer scheme predicts more reasonable LH fluxes and LH–wind speed relationship than those for the MM5 scheme. The results help us identify sources of biases of current parameterization schemes in reproducing PBL processes, the initiation of convection, and intraseasonal variability of precipitation.

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Casey D. Burleyson
,
Samson M. Hagos
,
Zhe Feng
,
Brandon W. J. Kerns
, and
Daehyun Kim

Abstract

The characteristics of Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) events that strengthen and weaken over the Maritime Continent (MC) are examined. The real-time multivariate MJO (RMM) index is used to assess changes in global MJO amplitude over the MC. The MJO weakens at least twice as often as it strengthens over the MC, with weakening MJOs being twice as likely during El Niño compared to La Niña years and the reverse for strengthening events. MJO weakening shows a pronounced seasonal cycle that has not been previously documented. During the Northern Hemisphere (NH) summer and fall the RMM index can strengthen over the MC. MJOs that approach the MC during the NH winter typically weaken according to the RMM index. This seasonal cycle corresponds to whether the MJO crosses the MC primarily north or south of the equator. Because of the seasonal cycle, weakening MJOs are characterized by positive sea surface temperature and moist-static energy anomalies in the Southern Hemisphere (SH) of the MC compared to strengthening events. Analysis of the outgoing longwave radiation (OLR) MJO index (OMI) shows that MJO precipitation weakens when it crosses the MC along the equator. A possible explanation of this based on previous results is that the MJO encounters more landmasses and taller mountains when crossing along the equator or in the SH. The new finding of a seasonal cycle in MJO weakening over the MC highlights the importance of sampling MJOs throughout the year in future field campaigns designed to study MJO–MC interactions.

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