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  • Author or Editor: Henrique M. J. Barbosa x
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Josefina Moraes Arraut, Carlos Nobre, Henrique M. J. Barbosa, Guillermo Obregon, and José Marengo


This is an observational study of the large-scale moisture transport over South America, with some analyses on its relation to subtropical rainfall. The concept of aerial rivers is proposed as a framework: it is an analogy between the main pathways of moisture flow in the atmosphere and surface rivers. Opposite to surface rivers, aerial rivers gain (lose) water through evaporation (precipitation). The magnitude of the vertically integrated moisture transport is discharge, and precipitable water is like the mass of the liquid column—multiplied by an equivalent speed it gives discharge. Trade wind flow into Amazonia, and the north/northwesterly flow to the subtropics, east of the Andes, are aerial rivers. Aerial lakes are the sections of a moisture pathway where the flow slows down and broadens, because of diffluence, and becomes deeper, with higher precipitable water. This is the case over Amazonia, downstream of the trade wind confluence. In the dry season, moisture from the aerial lake is transported northeastward, but weaker flow over southern Amazonia heads southward toward the subtropics. Southern Amazonia appears as a source of moisture to this flow. Aerial river discharge to the subtropics is comparable to that of the Amazon River. The variations of the amount of moisture coming from Amazonia have an important effect over the variability of discharge. Correlations between the flow from Amazonia and subtropical rainfall are not strong. However, some months within the set of dry seasons observed showed a strong increase (decrease) occurring together with an important increase (decrease) in subtropical rainfall.

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Niklas Boers, Henrique M. J. Barbosa, Bodo Bookhagen, José A. Marengo, Norbert Marwan, and Jürgen Kurths


Based on high-spatiotemporal-resolution data, the authors perform a climatological study of strong rainfall events propagating from southeastern South America to the eastern slopes of the central Andes during the monsoon season. These events account for up to 70% of total seasonal rainfall in these areas. They are of societal relevance because of associated natural hazards in the form of floods and landslides, and they form an intriguing climatic phenomenon, because they propagate against the direction of the low-level moisture flow from the tropics. The responsible synoptic mechanism is analyzed using suitable composites of the relevant atmospheric variables with high temporal resolution. The results suggest that the low-level inflow from the tropics, while important for maintaining sufficient moisture in the area of rainfall, does not initiate the formation of rainfall clusters. Instead, alternating low and high pressure anomalies in midlatitudes, which are associated with an eastward-moving Rossby wave train, in combination with the northwestern Argentinean low, create favorable pressure and wind conditions for frontogenesis and subsequent precipitation events propagating from southeastern South America toward the Bolivian Andes.

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